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Demystifying social commerce: What big brands and retailers can learn from the DTC playbook

Published February 8, 2022

According to Accenture, social commerce is expected to grow to a $1.2 trillion global industry by 2025 — outperforming traditional ecommerce growth by 3x.

Social commerce has become a major channel for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands to increase brand awareness, customer engagement, and conversions. Now big brands and retailers need to get in on the action to meet customer demand for social commerce so they don’t get left in the dust.

Social media as a channel has long been DTC brands’ answer to high-cost traditional advertising. Plus, it offers more data on engagement than things like billboards and newspaper ads. With the resources at your disposal, you can invest a lot into your social channels and get a lot back in return.

Social media is a unique opportunity to build intimate relationships with your customers and ultimately turn them into loyal customers.

Your brand likely already has thriving social media channels — why not turn them into dependable revenue streams?

What is social commerce?

Social commerce, in its essence, is direct selling on social media platforms. It means your customers travel the entire buying journey from discovery to purchase in the same app.

Social commerce turns shopping into a whole new experience. Product discovery turns into play. Social media users see your product in an engaging post from a friend or influencer or in your ad seamlessly integrated into the rest of their feed. Users can learn more without leaving the platform by visiting your shop or reading comments from other users. Then check out in just a few taps.

Why social commerce?

The unique experience of social commerce offers new ways to engage your customers and shifts the purchase journey.

More efficient purchase journey

On social media, you can create a frictionless buying journey while keeping your customers in the same platform. So there are fewer distractions than if you shuffled them to your website or through your email list. So, fewer chances to lose your customers along the way.

You decrease time to purchase. And more of your customers complete checkout.


Interactive shopping experience

On social media, users get product recommendations from their friends, show off new purchases to their followers, and read reviews of your products in the comments from other customers.

They can interact directly with your brand in comments or through DMs to get questions answered or build relationships through friendly exchanges.

This all supports an enjoyable shopping experience.

Your customers are already using social media to shop

With a $1.2 trillion growth trajectory, more of your customers are going to be using social media to discover and buy their new favorite product. But there’s already a huge opportunity for social commerce as a revenue stream.

On Instagram, 80% of people use the platform to help them make a purchase decision. And 46% of people said they’d made a purchase after seeing a product or service on Instagram — whether online or offline. With a more streamlined purchase journey, there’s an opportunity to win more of those customers with social commerce.

It’s how to reach millennials and Gen Z

Of social media users aged 16-34 in 2021, 50.7% made a purchase on Facebook, and 47.4% made purchases on Instagram.

DTC brand Blume has cracked the code on connecting with Gen Z on social media. In an interview with Buffer, Brand and Community Manager at Blume Janice Cheng said, “Gen Zers are conscious (smart) consumers and the most connected generation ever. Growing up with social media, they want transparency, community, and look for brands that align with their values.”

Brands that can tap into shared values with younger consumers on social media can build trust, leading to new fans for your brand and ultimately loyal customers.

Levels up your cross-channel efforts

Today’s brands need to be everywhere their customers are. Every touchpoint you have with your customers helps build trust and loyalty. That means a diversity of communication channels to build relationships — including email, social, and SMS — and multiple ways to shop, such as your website, brick-and-mortar shops, and social platforms.

Social commerce tactics for big brands to employ from the DTC playbook

DTC brands have social commerce dialed in. Use these tried-and-true strategies that lead DTC brands to success.

Prioritize your most popular, low-cost merchandise

You don’t need to add all your products to your social media shop. Prioritize the products people can impulse buy, not the ones with a long consideration time. Categories that tend to do well include apparel and accessories, cosmetics, electronics, and home decor.

Social media is a fast-paced platform — users pause to double-tap a picture and move on in seconds. So the products you feature on social need to grab their attention and convert to purchase quickly. Test various products to see what works.

Automate customer service with a chatbot

A customer getting a quick response to their questions can make a difference in closing the sale. Use an AI chatbot to automate answers to your most frequently asked questions to help a customer complete checkout and direct more complicated questions to a team member who can help.

Partner with influencers to increase your reach

Authenticity is essential for consumers today.

Content created by influencers has a more organic feel. Photos and videos might be shot on a phone or at home rather than at a production studio. And influencers speak more casually compared to a brand’s well-crafted marketing language. So engaging with an influencer’s content can often feel like getting a recommendation from a friend. Followers trust an influencer’s judgment and reviews. And the homemade feel of the content is relatable, so social media users can see themselves using your product.

Data from Later shows that influencers with fewer followers on Instagram have higher engagement rates. So it’s worth finding the right balance for your brand of influencers with more reach but lower engagement and smaller influencers with more engagement.


Organize products by category

If you have a deep product catalog like many big brands, it could make sense to make your social media shop more browsable.

Depending on your product, consider testing categories by gender, use case, or product type.

Collect email addresses

Make your channels work together seamlessly to take advantage of the many ways your customers interact with your brand. Once you turn someone into a customer on social media, grab their email address to use in future email marketing campaigns. Then you can target them with personalized recommendations and products that typically have a longer consideration window.

Now you can tie website activity to their email address for a richer customer profile and deeper personalization.

Integrate social commerce into your overall social media strategy

Don’t just open up shop and forget about it. To be most effective, use social commerce as a part of your overall social media strategy.

Post regularly. Be relatable. Engage your followers. And of course, take advantage of shoppable tags in your posts. Keep an eye on analytics and continue iterating on your approach to reach your goals.

Boost product discovery on other social platforms in addition to direct selling on social media.

True social commerce, where the entire user journey from discovery to purchase happens within the app, is currently limited to Facebook and Instagram as far as the major players are concerned. But don’t rule out the power of other social platforms to boost on-site conversions.

  • Pinterest is practically made to help users find their next purchase. In 2021, 59% reported discovering new products on the platform. The shop feature looks and feels similar to that on Instagram, except checkout happens on the brand’s website.
  • Product discovery is big on TikTok, too. Popular hashtags like #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt and #AmazonFinds help users find new products. And users can use an influencer’s bio link to shop the products featured in their feeds.
  • Twitter is testing Shop Modules with a few brands. Shoppers check out on the brand’s website, but you can still showcase products directly on your profile.

Social commerce isn’t just a trend. It’s here to stay — and it’s growing. For big brands and retailers, there’s a huge opportunity to connect to younger generations, engage your audience, and capitalize on the interactive nature of direct selling on social media.

It’s time to set up shop!

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