Social Commerce: The Guide to Growth of Your Online Retail

The rise of eCommerce is a 21st-century phenomenon that has proved even more impressive than could have been imagined. With the interruption of the covid-19 pandemic in 2020 more consumers discovered online retail. The growth in spending rocketed, and even though high street stores are open once more there is little sign of the online boom slowing down.
Consumers appreciate the convenience of being able to shop for just about anything via a smartphone – now the most popular choice of device – PC, laptop, or tablet. The younger generations especially are heavily influenced by digital technology and are the target for many online service providers and especially retailers.
One area of online commerce that has evolved greatly in a remarkably short time is marketing. Marketing an eCommerce store requires a different approach than that for a bricks-and-mortar outlet. Many of the concepts are similar, but the target audience differs. The present-day consumer needs to be assured that they are important, cared about, and valued. But there’s more to online marketing than simply using your website and blogs.
In this article, we will be looking at the concept of social commerce space, social media consumption, and social commerce strategy.

Let’s begin with an explanation of social commerce and how it works.

Table of Contents

What Is Social Commerce?

Social commerce is one branch of the eCommerce world. eCommerce covers all purchases and sales transactions that are carried out online. In other words, digital commerce. Social commerce refers to that which takes place using a social media platform. It also covers transactions in which social media users click through from a social media site to the website of an eCommerce retailer.
For example, you are browsing on Instagram and come across a piece about a product that you need or want. You can click through to the online retailer and buy it. Or many retailers put a direct checkout link on their Instagram business account so you can buy directly. You just completed a social commerce transaction.
Social commerce mobile
The important factor in all of this is the ongoing use of social media sites by the younger generations. Millennials and Generation Z are firmly ensconced in smartphones and digital technology. These are the consumers not just of the present, but of the immediate future. Plus, future generations will also grow up with a rapidly developing digital and online retail infrastructure. Influencers are useful in pushing social commerce and the youngsters listen to them.
So, in summary, social commerce is a term that covers eCommerce transactions performed from a social media platform. Before we move on to talk in more detail about how social commerce can benefit an online retail outfit it is worth looking at some of the social media trends and statistics of the moment and predictions for the near future.

Some Important Social Commerce Statistics

The growth and power of social commerce in eCommerce is perhaps best expressed using the following statistics:
Just from the above few statistics, it becomes clear how much power social media networks have when it comes to pushing brands and online shopping.
A lot of this is down to a phenomenon known as Social Trust, so let’s take a quick look at how social proof is linked to social commerce.

Social Trust and Online Retail

The modern generation of online consumers is influenced by a variety of factors. We’ve already talked about how millennials and Gen Z play a major part in the online retail boom. This is large because they have been brought up exclusively in the digital age. Those of us from earlier pre-Internet generations will recognize social trust from its pre-digital forms.
Before we had digital communication, we would tell friends and colleagues about a new product or shop we had found one to one. We call this ‘word of mouth’ and it is the forerunner of social trust. The younger generations trust influencers. If a noted influencer recommends a fashion brand, there will be a boost in interest in that brand. This applies across all online retail markets.
Furthermore, if a friend shares news of a new online store that they have used and appreciated, that store’s social trust rises as the followers of that friend will all have. This is why many online stores recruit customers to become Brand Ambassadors. Social trust is, to put it simply, essential if you are to grow a business online. If your social trust is cemented and secure – you have a lot of followers and great feedback – then your social commerce income will rise as consumers trust your brand more.
We’re a little bit off track here, so let’s now talk about the major benefits of social commerce for a growing online retail store, and then we will go into some detail about how to sell on the major social media networks.

How Does Social Commerce Benefit an Online Retail Outlet?

To explain this let’s imagine a young eCommerce retailer selling unique t-shirt designs. They have been trading for a year and are building up a good and solid loyal customer base. They have social media footprints on Facebook and Instagram. On these platforms, our retailer frequently places ads and also announcements. These are shared by followers to friends and colleagues who they believe may be interested in the product.
In that short paragraph, we’ve seen how a brand’s exposure can be improved quite dramatically by simply sharing a link on social media. Consider this: recent research has found that the average number of friends a Facebook user has is around 340. 15% of users have more than 500. Only 28% of those are considered genuine or close friends. Let’s say someone with 300 friends shares a link to our t-shirt brand. That’s 300 people who know about the brand in an instance. How many of those will pass it on to their friends?
Social Commerce Benefit an Online Retail Outlet
Social media marketing is an organic method of building brand awareness. Think of the old ‘rippled on the pond’ scenario: they spread wider, expanding as they do. That’s similar to what is happening in this example of social media marketing.
Where social commerce comes into play is in making it easier for the customer to make a purchase. Let’s look at how that helps in a bit more detail.

Why Social Commerce is Essential for Online Brands?

Without using social commerce, you are losing a wide potential customer base that is easy to reach. The modern consumer – one who is up to speed with online retail – wants to experience a customer journey that is rewarding and of value to them. They also want to get to the product they are looking for as quickly and easily as possible.
Gone are the days when a consumer would browse for a long time. They want to see relevant products and of interest on their social media networks, and they want to be able to go straight to the product with no need to log in to another website and go through the motions. This is why a ‘buy it here’ button is a popular addition. If you have one and your competitors don’t, you have a head start.
Now we know why social commerce is essential and the benefits it can bring to an eCommerce retail store. We need to consider how to get the best out of your social commerce campaign.

How to Sell on Social Media Platforms?

As with all online marketing routines, there is more to social commerce than simply placing an ad and hoping the customers come flooding in. You need to work at it, to stay a step ahead of your competition, and you need to use the available resources.
The first step is to create a space on each of the powerful social media networks: Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, plus Twitter, and increasingly Tik Tok. Each of these will get its section below, but first, we want to have a quick look at how to structure your social commerce strategy.

Social Commerce Marketing Strategies

What have we learned so far? First, we know that social commerce is massive in China – the biggest market of all – and that the second biggest player in social commerce is the USA. We know that it is driven by the digital-savvy millennials and Gen Z generations, and we also know that influencers have a lot of power in the social commerce world.
What we have yet to see is that user-generated content can also have an impact, and we’ll talk about that shortly. So, what is the ideal social commerce strategy? That depends entirely on the market sector that you operate in. Our example of a t-shirt seller, for instance, would need a different approach to someone selling gadgets. The basic premise would be the same, but careful consideration of where to place relevant content and buttons needs to be undertaken.
What is common to all market sectors is that the three main factors powering social commerce remain the same: Influencers, Calls to Action, and user-generated content. Before we talk about each of the most powerful social networks, let’s look at these three factors. To begin with, what is an influencer and how does one become one?

What is an Influencer?

The rise of social media influencer marketing is a curious phenomenon, but one that is tightly linked with social commerce. It seems that the concept of influencers appeared overnight, but in fact, they also pre-date the Internet in certain forms. The best definition of an influencer is someone who has gained a reputation as an authority to be trusted on a certain subject. They are experts in the field and talk about or present it on their social media platforms.
Social media influencers are not, however, always celebrities. Indeed, a celebrity acting as an influencer may garner less in the way of social trust as they are not necessarily an authority. A famous pop star, for example, may put themselves forward as a fashion influencer, but in fact, they have less impact than someone who regularly blogs the latest fashion news and has credentials in the industry.
There are different levels of influence – from the Mega-Influencer with millions of followers to Nano-Influencers who speak to a specific customer base – and all have the potential to create great social commerce results.
In summary, then, an influencer is someone who exerts an above-average influence on their audience. They are useful to brands as those who watch or read their channels and content will be influenced to buy the products they promote. Anyone can become an influencer, yet it takes a lot of work to reach the top levels of the trade.

The Importance of Calls to Action

The second of our three factors that power social selling is the Call to Action. This is a tried and tested method of closing an advert or product description with an invitation to make a purchase or contact the retailer. These, in conjunction with the influencer and the methods of promotion we’re going to talk about later, are vital to any marketing campaign. We will talk in more detail about user-generated content shortly, but first, we’ll give you the low-down on the most powerful social commerce platforms.

The Importance of Calls to Action


Facebook is one of the biggest social channels when it comes to social commerce in the USA. Facebook Shop – with which users can create basic stores for free – was launched in 2020 aimed at smaller businesses struggling with the pandemic. It will roll out to bigger outlets should it prove successful. In the USA alone Facebook boasts some 325 million users. Of these more than 56 million are expected to social shopping via Facebook Shops in 2021. Facebook has made significant moves into e-commerce with shopping features across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, including initiatives like online storefronts, integrated checkout, product drops, video shopping, and more. Facebook is a social network every business needs to be prominent on.
facebook search


While not as far-reaching as Facebook the centered and detailed way in which Pinterest works lends the platform perfectly to social commerce. Pinterest is about creating a buzz about a product and driving interest and is big in the design, fashion, and health markets. Pinterest has almost 100 million users in the USA.
Pinterest search


The big draw with Instagram is that it is very much focused on influencer culture. The social platform enables users to directly purchase products promoted in adverts and by influencers they follow. More than 130 million users tap on an Instagram Shopping post each month – foot traffic a brick-and-mortar shop owner could only dream of. They could be your potential customers if you know how to run Instagram social commerce. The first step in this process is setting up your Instagram business account. Shopping posts are a great way to showcase your catalog and drive sales.
Instagram search
Instagram search
Before we look at some of the successful social media sales methods that can be used with social commerce, we need to come back to user-generated content and its importance. Tik Tok has rapidly become the platform of choice for video content, so let’s look at it in the context of social commerce

Tik Tok and User Generated Content

While not the only content-generation platform Tik Tok has shot to prominence in the market over the last couple of years. As with many online products the covid-19 pandemic gave it a boost. A Chinese platform, it now has around 80 million users in the USA. But here’s the interesting bit: the users are 60% female and some 60% of all users are between 16 and 24 years old – bang on the Generation Z crowd. It’s for this reason that influencers are flocking to the platform.
Tik Tok allows the user to create a 15-second video clip (this is the norm although there are longer options available) with sound. The opportunity for promotion is obvious. Brands use Tik Tok by creating their channel, to work with influencers, and also to advertise although the latter is in its infancy.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Tik Tok is the #Hashtag Challenges feature. This highly innovative function allows brands – or individuals – to create challenges that followers can take part in. A famous example: Jimmy Fallon launched #tumbleweedchallenge in which users were invited to submit videos of themselves rolling around on the floor like tumbleweed. The challenge yielded 8000 entries. That’s not a massive number, but when you consider that it invited more than 10million user engagements that’s a lot of marketing power for little effort.
Tik tok search
Tik Tok is young and growing, but it is here to stay and an essential part of social commerce engagement. The platform has plans for improving the advertising and sales aspects, so it is certainly worth keeping a close eye on.
Before we move on, you may have noticed a glaring omission: where is Twitter? Twitter is a powerful medium with more than 70 million users in the USA alone. While it is useful for marketing campaigns, Twitter removed its ‘buy’ button some years ago so is less useful for social commerce. However, the social platform has been testing selling features lately. Twitter’s entry into online shopping comes at a time when major tech companies and social platforms are ramping up their investments in eCommerce.
Now let’s have a look at the most successful methods of selling on social media.

Successful Social Media Sales Methods

The above sections have covered many of the sales methods that can be used to boost and encourage social commerce, but we want to revisit some and have a brief look at others.

Social Media Posts

Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest offer native shopping solutions for business accounts. Promoted posts offer a way of reaching greater numbers of users. Facebook and Instagram let brands pick one of three conversion-oriented objectives – conversions, catalog sales, and store traffic. If you’re launching a brand new store or product, you should start building buzz around it before you are ready to go live with sales.
Social media posts

Shopping Ads

Social ads are a simple method of boosting brand awareness and social sales. They can be tailored for a specific audience and targeted at such. These are useful for when you have a product you know sells and that a consumer wants, and can be used with social commerce by way of a direct buy-it button on the ad. Social platforms offer completely free social commerce campaigns set up. Those campaigns create a memorable, interactive, social shopping experience for customers. It streamlines the sales process. Users can shop directly from their feeds, without clicking through to an external website. The distance between discovery and checkout is shorter which can improve your conversion rates.


The # has become a ubiquitous symbol in social media and is simple to use when promoting products using any of the main media platforms. Perhaps the most innovative use of # is that we described in the section on Tik Tok with the #Hashtag Challenge. Industry insiders see this type of customer engagement as growing very quickly.


How to better what is already a good buying experience? If you find your eCommerce business in this situation, your goal could be to add value to the purchase. As for showcasing your commercial, you could go video advertising on social media. For the latter, the ideal platform will depend on your objective. You will likely find more engagement on Instagram but best-performing ads on Facebook. Pinterest is also a good choice if you are looking to drive traffic to your web page and guide your potential customers down the sales funnel.
A powerful product video does not need to be long to be effective. A well-executed product video can engage viewers, keep them entertained, teach them about the product, and convert them into buyers.

Other Promotion Methods

The above is by no means a comprehensive list of promotional methods for use with social commerce – we’ve already covered the major power of influencers, for example – but we believe it should give you the basic framework around which to build your social commerce routine. If you are in a niche market, there may be smaller yet influential social media platforms that are perfect for your business so do not limit yourself to the main platforms we have talked about.


Social commerce may initially sound like a dark art and complicated marketing technique, but in fact, it is a method of encouraging consumers to buy your products without the need to go through a lengthy eCommerce store log-in and registration. This simplicity and the direct way it puts the product in front of the customer is why social commerce is expanding its reach at a very rapid rate. We hope you have enjoyed the article and take away from it some useful inspiration.

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