Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Social Commerce set to soar in 2020

By Nuala McBride, PPC and Biddable Account Manager, Loom Digital

Influencer marketing has been all the rage for many years. GymShark, for example, has built its whole marketing strategy on influencers, growing by £100bn in just seven years. With influencer marketing comes social commerce, but the latter has been lurking in the shadows.

However, in 2019 it took centre stage with Instagram and Pinterest launching in-app commerce solutions.  

Social commerce has been boosted at a faster rate than could have been predicted thanks to our ever-growing online, social media-focussed society. Social media is no longer just about communication. It’s where trends are defined in our society, where brands gain recognition, popularity and influential status, and where a lot of us now to go shop.  

In 2020, social commerce will continue to soar (and maybe overtake influencer marketing) in popularity.

What is social commerce?

Social commerce is the marriage of social media and ecommerce. It has only recently become a buzzword, but the term has been around since the early noughties.

Ecommerce was born with the advent of the internet and social commerce started to boom with the introduction of broadband and the launch of social networks. These created a new space for people to discuss, promote, share feedback and refer friends to products or services.  

Since then, its meaning has become an umbrella term for technological advances that have reshaped how we shop.

Why is social commerce so important for brands?

Social commerce plays a major role in many brands’ marketing strategies. In a world absorbed by social media, it’s no surprise that how brands behave online can have a massive impact on consumer purchase decisions.  
Here’s some reasons why – when executed well – social commerce is so successful:

  • Community: Creating a community of like-minded shoppers on social media, who share similar values, likes and beliefs.
  • Social Proof: Brands need to make it seem like other people are buying the brand and liking the brand to promote sales.
  • Authority: If a product is endorsed by a top celebrity or influential person then that adds credibility and pushes up sales.

Why is this trend set to rocket in 2020?

Typically with social commerce, a brand would promote a product in a social media post (or advert) and then the user would have to land on the website or go in store to make a purchase. This was a massive flaw with social commerce, as many people would drop off at this point in the purchase process.

In 2019, social commerce took another step in its journey, morphing into in-app social media purchases. This was prompted by the big players in the social media space launching bespoke social commerce solutions (notably Instagram and Pinterest).  

In March 2019, we saw the launch of ‘Checkout with Instagram’ and Pinterest launched its in-app shopping feature. Both of these simplified the user journey by allowing a post to link directly to an in-app shop. Social commerce was put back on the roadmap.

However, these tech giants weren’t the only ones in the market. A smaller app called Depop was founded in 2011 – originally as a social platform. However, it quickly saw the gap in the market and shifted over to a shopping app, where people could create profiles to buy and resell clothes. It now has over 13 million users.

The smaller companies are only going to follow suit and move into the social commerce space.  

Social Commerce & Influencers

Social commerce and influencers work hand in hand, but also in a tug of war for marketer’s budgets. Instagram is pushing for brands to maintain and promote their social feeds and thus have a better ROI on the platform than other streams of marketing.

Whereas, influencer marketing is being more and more undercut by how unquantifiable it is. There’s also been questions asked about the validity of influencers. We all saw that the ‘World Record Egg’ on Instagram, which had the sole aim to get more likes than Kylie Jenner on one post.

This little anti-celebrity / anti-influencer revolt shows that even an egg can be influential, questioning whether social commerce needs influencers anymore.

With technology advancing and more of our lives being played out on social media in different forms, social commerce is a trend that’s here to stay. This begs the question as to whether social commerce may overtake influencers in popularity in 2020?