Social commerce only drives a fraction of ecommerce sales, but it's picking up speed. Between 2016 and 2018, social networks as a last-touch channel have doubled in visit share to US retail sites, according to Q3 2018 data from Adobe.
“Social commerce is gaining momentum as platforms like Instagram and Pinterest add shopping-related features, and influencers have only added fuel to the fire,” said eMarketer principal analyst Andrew Lipsman. “While it’s not the most important direct-referral channel for retail, it's growing the fastest.”
Older platforms like Facebook and Twitter have long experimented with social commerce features, but the practice has never caught on. Then visually oriented social networks like Instagram came along and gave brands ways to showcase their products.
More recently, Pinterest expanded its shopping capabilities in anticipation of its initial public offering.
“The content itself takes up 85% of the screen [on Instagram],” said Apu Gupta, co-founder and CEO of social commerce platform Curalate. “And the way you thumb through it lends itself to a discovery experience. You can tap on the image and see the products that are contained within them.”
Influencer marketing is also bolstering social commerce, especially on Instagram where 34% of daily users ages 13 and older have already purchased products based on a recommendation from an influencer or blogger, according to December 2018 data from CivicScience.
Instagram’s “swipe-up” feature added another opportunity, as influencers with more than 10,000 followers can now link directly to products via their Stories.
Social media is already a powerful tool for consumers to discover and share information about products. But as more efficient shopping features streamline the path to conversion, social commerce could play a larger role in the ecommerce world.