What Brands Need to Know About Social Commerce Social commerce needs to be at the top of your list if your brand relies on online sales.

By Jessica Wong

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ecommerce has become a shopping staple for consumers worldwide. Purchasing products online has gradually grown in popularity for two decades. However, the coronavirus pandemic led to a growth spurt of the sector and cemented its importance in the retail sphere.

Now, social commerce is here to take ecommerce to the next level. If your brand relies on online sales, social commerce needs to be at the top of your list.

Social commerce vs. ecommerce

Ecommerce refers to any sales made online, via websites, email marketing, branded shopping apps, and other platforms. Social commerce is a type of ecommerce, carried out on social media platforms.

Its place on social media is what sets social commerce apart from other ecommerce outlets. Social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, reach more than 3 billion active users every month. According to Statista, just under 70% of all North Americans use social media. For brands looking to sell online, this equates to huge potential.

Around eight out of 10 U.S. businesses expect to dip into the social commerce market by 2023. They are looking to take advantage of a market that has already grown to a value of more than $500 billion per year. More importantly, the social commerce market is expected to reach more than $3 trillion by 2028.

Related: 5 Steps to Level Up Your Social-Commerce Strategy

Why social commerce is so attractive to consumers

Before the pandemic, shopping was a social activity. Heading to the mall with friends or family used to be something many Americans enjoyed regularly. As Covid-19 spread and socializing was replaced by social distancing, shopping moved online.

Eighty million Americans purchased products on social media platforms in 2020, a 30% increase over the previous year. Whilst social commerce had been growing steadily, the pandemic led to a growth spurt.

Technologically, an online purchase qualifies as social commerce if the entire shopping experience happens on social media. The process starts with finding out about the product and ends with receiving an order confirmation. What sets social commerce apart from other forms of ecommerce is the social element of the online shopping experience.

Platforms make it easy to share a product with friends to get their opinions before making a purchase. Once purchased, it is just as easy to share the excitement and the anticipation of the delivery. When other forms of online shopping can seem remote and impersonal, social commerce recreates the in-store experience.

Related: Social Commerce Is the Future of Marketing. Are You Ready?

How your brand can benefit from social commerce

Any brand that is looking to sell online can benefit from opening a social media shop. To maximize your budget, you need to take a strategic approach.

Not all social media platforms are popular with all audiences. The most successful brands find a close match between their target customer and the platform's audience. This is where social media platforms excel: They know their users better than other ecommerce outlets. They understand their likes and dislikes as well as their social media habits. As a brand looking to sell on social media, you benefit from precise targeting.

Social commerce also supports customer relationship-building and strengthens your branding. Platforms make it easy for users to share pictures and experiences of your product. With permission, you can integrate this user-generated content into your sales pitch. Your pitch will gain credibility and trust. It might even go viral as the original user shares the fact that their picture was selected to be featured.

Building customer relationships and inspiring loyalty work best when social commerce is integrated with other elements of your brand's social media marketing. Consumers recognize a coherent brand voice and image. The trust they have for your content is then extended to your sales pitch.

Moreover, social commerce allows your brand to connect to more customers directly than an in-store experience ever could. From a sales perspective, this is the most direct approach you could take without knocking on a customer's door. From a brand perspective, this is an unparalleled opportunity to create brand loyalty.

Related: Ecommerce Is the New Normal. Here's What That Means for Entrepreneurs

Looking beyond today's sales

Without a doubt, social commerce is a powerful tool to convert adverts into sales today. This is essential for the survival of your business. However, looking to the future, social commerce can do more than convert one sale today.

Because of its social component and its propensity for relationship-building, this type of ecommerce is the perfect channel to create long-term customer relationships. The user data available from social media platforms makes personalization easy from the first purchase. As a result, brands have an opportunity to create the same close relationship that previous generations of shoppers had with their favorite store.

Social commerce allows brands to act as personal shoppers for their customers, making the entire shopping experience enjoyable and convenient.

The future of social commerce

Experts predict sustained growth for social media use. Social commerce will benefit as a result.

By using social media platforms as a sales channel, brands are in a unique position to see their customers' habits change as the changes happen. This proximity allows them to adapt to changing habits in real time and continue to grow sales by meeting consumer needs as they arise.

Jessica Wong

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder and CEO of Valux Digital and uPro Digital.

Jessica is the Founder and CEO of nationally recognized marketing and PR firms, Valux Digital and uPro Digital. She is a digital marketing and PR expert with more than 20 years of success driving bottom-line results for clients through innovative marketing programs aligned with emerging strategies.

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