The Expansion of Social Commerce in 2020

by Nathan Halnin

Oct 22, 2020

person using laptop computer holding card
Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

Every year, social media platforms release a variety of new features that cater to the interests of their users. Since 2006, the amount of adults who use social media has grown exponentially, according to a study by Pew Research Center. In 2018, 72 percent of U.S. adults use social media, and it is still growing. With the COVID-19 pandemic leaving many to stay indoors, the online consumption of individuals has drastically increased, particularly on social media.

Online shopping is one of the most common activities that users engage in on the web. KPMG found that of all the age groups, Gen X users accounted for the most online transactions per year, with an average of 18.6. Millennials are second, having an average of 15.6 transactions per year, followed by Baby Boomers with 15.1. In the last decade, ecommerce sales have rapidly increased. It is projected that retail ecommerce sales will reach $4.9 trillion USD in the world by 2021, according to Shopify

Due to COVID-19 forcing many businesses to close their physical store locations, many have turned to social media. But, why social media? In 2020, many major social media platforms introduced social commerce, allowing both small and large businesses to sell their products directly on these platforms. 

Prior to online shopping being introduced on social media, PwC noted that 24 percent of consumers shop using their mobile device weekly, according to their survey in 2019. The study also noted that this was the first time that mobile devices were ranked as the most used outlet for online shopping. 

With Black Friday being a month away, and Christmas being two-months away, holiday shopping will soon begin. Now with COVID-19 limiting the amount of people allowed to be in physical stores, many have turned to online shopping for this holiday season. With that in mind, here is an overview of social media platforms that have introduced online shopping.

LAUNCHED

Facebook

Back in May, Facebook introduced Facebook Shops, a new feature that was designed to support small businesses by allowing business owners to set up an online store on their Facebook Page. Before introducing this feature, Facebook already had its marketplace feature that allowed users to sell items from one person to another. However, with Facebook Shops, users are now able to shop directly from a Facebook Page, since it allows businesses to include a checkout process where they do not need to be redirected to an external website.

It is also important to note that last month, Facebook introduced the Facebook Business Suite, which connects Facebook and Instagram together. This allows business users to post simultaneously on Facebook and Instagram, and they can receive alerts and notifications all in one place. Although this was initially designed for small businesses at first, Facebook noted that this feature will also become available to large businesses soon. 

Instagram 

When Facebook released Facebook Shops in May, Instagram also released the Instagram Shops feature at the same time. Similar to the shopping feature from Facebook, Instagram business accounts can tag their items which can allow users to shop directly on Instagram, or be redirected to an external website to purchase a product. Recently, Instagram has also made the shop button more visible, by adding it to the bottom navigation tab. From there, users can see recommended products from business pages you follow and/or have viewed.

In addition, Instagram unveiled IGTV shopping this month. From a video, a display page can showcase the products that are featured, and users can buy them directly from there. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, also teased that users will soon be able to shop from Instagram Reels, which is slated to be tested later this year. 

https://twitter.com/mosseri/status/1313132563569860608

Pinterest

Back in April, Pinterest released its shop feature which was discussed in our blog earlier this year. With this feature, Pinterest users with a business account can start selling their products through pins, boards and through search. The great benefit of Pinterest’s shopping feature is that products from both small and large companies can be discovered equally. Pinterest noted that 97 percent of top searches are unbranded, which indicates that people are looking for generic items without a set brand in mind. 

IN DEVELOPMENT

Snapchat

Back in July, Snapchat introduced Brand Profiles, which are designated pages for businesses that have four main components. One of those components is a native store, where users can shop directly from a business’ brand profile. Since this feature is powered by Shopify, users can go through the checkout process without leaving the app. It is important to note that this feature is currently in closed beta, and only certain brands have been granted access to this feature. Snapchat stated that this feature will be more openly available later this year.

TikTok

In November 2019, TikTok was exploring the possibility of beginning in-app shopping, where a video was shared via Twitter which showcased the feature on TikTok’s Chinese counterpart, Douyin. In April this year, the shop feature on TikTok was tested by Levi’s, where the company saw higher product views after using it. However, it was noted that some influencers were given access to include ecommerce links on their profiles last year. There is no official confirmation from TikTok yet about the certainty of a shopping feature being released to the mass public. 

https://twitter.com/iamfabianbern/status/1195048398329696256

YouTube

During this month, it was revealed that YouTube is currently testing a new feature that would allow viewers to directly purchase products from the video sharing platform. YouTube is also supposedly testing an integration with Shopify which would allow users to sell directly on it. The feature would allow creators to have control over the products that they display, and only a few channels have been given access to test this feature, according to a spokesperson from YouTube. No additional details were provided if this shopping feature is set to be released as it is currently still being tested.

PHASED OUT

Twitter

Five years ago, Twitter was one of the first social platforms to test ecommerce. In Twitter’s blog announcement from 2015, it provided a sample of how the shopping feature would be integrated into the platform, where users can directly buy from a tweet with a featured product. In addition, it also introduced product collections, which are a curation of products from certain users that can be shared and explored by users. With product collections, users can shop from the selection of items made by a curator. 

In 2017, Twitter started to phase out its shopping feature, citing that it intended to step down from the ecommerce market. Initially, Twitter had a partnership with Shopify which allowed business owners to sell directly on the platform. In a letter provided to users, it stated that the shopping feature powered by Shopify on Twitter will no longer be available starting February 1, 2017. 

In the present, there is no word from Twitter if there are any plans to relaunch its shopping feature. 

person using macbook pro on white table
Photo by Roberto Cortese on Unsplash

With the rapid growth of social commerce this year, now is the best time to invest in social media marketing. Our experts at Qode Social can assist you or your business in creating a social media presence that will align to your business goals. We can set up your ecommerce platform on social media and create strategic content that will 

Qode Social is a Toronto-based social media marketing agency that specializes in community building, account growth, ad analysis, Facebook and Instagram support, and more. Led by experienced social media experts, Qode Social has worked with companies such as Gay Lea Foods, Days Inn Canada, TP-Link and more. Qode Social is a division of Qode Media, which is the parent company that focuses on SEO and graphic design.