November 2, 2021

Your Guide to Shopping & E-Commerce on Social Media

Cole Nixon

One of the fastest growing verticals within social media this year is e-commerce. Online shopping and social media scrolling used to be two totally separate activities, but now 52 percent of socially engaged shoppers have made a purchase through a social platform.

Integrating social media and e-commerce is a longstanding opportunity that brands have been dying to take advantage of. Lucky for them, the two online behaviors are beginning to converge faster than ever before. Several new social shopping tools and features have come out this year across many of the biggest platforms. In this blog, we’ll dive into all the newest developments that have popped up in recent years and how they’re used across all the major social channels.

Shoppable In-Feed Posts

Shoppable photo tags have been around on Instagram since November 2016, so this is the most well-established and familiar version of social commerce. When people think of shopping on social, this is likely what they think of. Most of the major platforms invested in e-comm—such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, and Pinterest—now have some version of shoppable posts.

Pinterest specifically has made a lot of noise releasing new tools and layouts with e-commerce in mind—so much so that there was talk of online payment giant PayPal buying Pinterest (though ultimately they decided not to move forward with the purchase). Making Pinterest more shoppable has been a key shift for the platform in 2021, and at the center of that strategy is populating the platform with as many shoppable pins as possible. TikTok is still fleshing out its social shopping capabilities, but is positioned to be a big player in this space as well with its rapid ascension.

Brand Example: Glossier is famous for its socially native approach to organically promoting products throughout its social feeds.

Live Stream Shopping

Last month, in our blog that dove into the future of live streaming, we discussed the emerging trend of live shopping. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have made the most progress with their live streaming products so far. This type of social shopping is strongly tied to influencers and how they can effectively sell to their audiences. Building hype around live shopping events with promotion leading up to the event is key so that a big enough audience will be tuned in. What makes live shopping different from any other social e-comm tool is that live has a contained time period that you have to be tuned in for in order to not miss the deal. Creating big events around live shopping, such as Instagram’s 10 Days of Live Shopping, helps ensure a successful turnout. Just this week, Pinterest made a big announcement launching its new live shopping platform, Pinterest TV.

Brand Example: Last year, Tommy Hilfiger held a live shopping event on YouTube hosted by model Manuela Frey and other special guests.

Product Drops & New Releases

Social media is extremely effective in promoting products that have yet to be released. For years now, viral social marketing campaigns run on Instagram have sold out products, generated massive waitlists for new products, and built hype for brands that are just starting out. Instagram took notice of how effective its platform is for this and created a specific tool to help brands succeed. Instagram Drops allows brands to promote yet-to-be-released products in the days, weeks, or even months leading up to a launch. This creates the idea of a socially native product launch that may include being exclusive to the platform. If customers can only purchase the product via Instagram Drops, then they will flock to social channels specifically looking to shop.

Brand Example: Bobbi Brown is releasing this year’s Holiday Highlights collection via Instagram Drops.

Product Collections & Social Catalogs

Product collections are still relatively new to social commerce, but the implications for the future could be big. Imagine a social media page having the same giant product catalog as a brand’s main e-comm website, scrolling through the new fall collection without ever leaving the platform. This could be closer than you think—Instagram rolled out Collections last year to help brands organize products within its Shop tab so things are easier to navigate. Instagram is also now testing promoted product posts within the Shop tab.

Black Friday

“Black Friday is meant to be a social shopping experience that people participate in together,” says the National Retail Federation’s Katherine Cullen. This is what differentiates it from other shopping events like Prime Day and Cyber Monday. For decades, social shopping meant lining up outside the store with friends to get the best deals. Now, it means sending friends a TikTok product review of something they absolutely need to grab right when Black Friday starts, or tagging your close friends in a giveaway on Instagram. Your brand can take advantage of this event becoming more and more of a social media affair by hosting live shopping events, ramping up the number of shoppable posts, and creating a Black Friday–specific Collection on Instagram.

According to Sprout Social, the conversation surrounding Black Friday on social media grows bigger every year. In fact, there was a 175.5 percent increase in messages along with a massive 968.5 percent increase in total engagements YoY from 2019 to 2020. If it feels like you start hearing about Black Friday earlier and earlier every year, that’s because you do! A recent trend in the last few years has been the major retailers offering Black Friday deals as early as the first week of October. Going forward, it is now much more than simply the day after Thanksgiving. Now that it’s an all-season affair, make sure to start your social campaign early enough to take full advantage.

Want to be the first to know about new shopping features on social? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, #TBT.

Tags: Best Practices, Consumer Insights, E-Commerce, Facebook, Influencer Marketing, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Social Media, TikTok, Tools, Trends

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