The merging of shopping and social media certainly isn’t a recent development, but in the ever-changing digital sphere, the game rules of social commerce are changing, too.

The way users are interacting with different social media platforms is evolving, along with the way platforms can be leveraged by brands to form a key part of the user journey and sales funnel. It’s important to keep up with the latest buyer behaviours and platform updates that may affect the way we’re using social media for advertising.

Let’s explore what successful social commerce advertising looks like today, why it’s key to brand growth and how you can use it to maximise sales.

What is social commerce?  

Social commerce involves selling products and services directly on social media platforms. This means turning the brand’s social media profiles into sales portals. 

Unlike regular e-commerce, social media is often differentiated by the advantage of in-platform checkout, i.e. allowing the user to purchase without leaving the social media site. 

However, it’s about much more than just enabling payments on the platform; social commerce encompasses the whole brand-customer online experience on social platforms.

Though often disregarded as direct sales channels, global sales through social media platforms were estimated at $992 billion and predictions say that social commerce could hit $8.5 trillion by 2030.

The importance of social media in the user journey

Social media is a crucial channel for new brands, product launches and ventures in new markets. It’s often a key advertising channel because it’s where discovery begins. In fact, according to Deloitte, 64% of digital buyers discover brands and/or products through social media. 

Beyond discovery, social media is where users have the opportunity to engage with brands, ask questions, read reviews and learn from previous users’ experiences before making a purchase.

This makes social commerce, a fully-fledged strategy, covering every aspect of the buying process.

Furthermore, customer service can also be integrated with your social platforms with the possibility of setting up automated messages and chatbots allowing customers to ask questions and obtain help before and after making a purchase.

Personalised customer experiences can go a long way, especially in light of the new data privacy measures limiting visibility on website interactions – the human-to-human, personal interaction that social experiences offer is set to become priceless.

Platforms leading the way in social commerce

All major social platforms have integrated commerce into their experience.

Facebook Shop

Facebook Shop began in 2020 and rose to great heights during the covid pandemic – when most sellers had to shut their brick-and-mortar stores and move to online sales.

Brands found Facebook Shops to be an easy, fully integrated solution to use to sell their products.

Fast forward to 2024, Facebook shops are very much still widely used, allowing brands to showcase their product catalogues with rich descriptions and images while offering the opportunity for the customer to directly contact the seller via Messenger, making the whole experience smooth and straightforward.

Instagram Shopping

Initially known for being the first social media shop back in 2016 and for its product tags in both organic and paid product listings, Instagram Shopping developed into the solution it is today in 2020.

Its standout feature is shortening the path from discovery and evaluation of a product – via the built-in Instagram product page – to making a purchase.

Whether the checkout process happens in-platform (which is only available in selected countries) or on the website itself, this shortened path – combined with the visually immersive experience that Instagram offers – makes it an effective tool for both discovering products and boosting online sales.

TikTok Shops

#tiktokmademebuyit and similar trending hashtags prove the efficacy of the platform when it comes to influencing purchase decisions, specifically among Gen Z, who make up 44.7% of the platform users.

Tiktok provides a wide variety of shopping tools, including integrated shops, the possibility of livestream shopping and shoppable videos. These features have become pivotal for ecommerce, allowing brands to expand their presence, entertain and sell at the same time.

Strategies for successful social commerce advertising

Brands can boost social shopping in different ways, we’ll explore four of them:

1. Organic content, with a dedicated, tailored, content plan that speaks to the pain points of the users and showcases the product as the solution. 

Alongside a well-crafted editorial plan for optimal communication, brands on social media would also benefit from the use of interactive features such as polls, quizzes, and live streams in order to enhance the social experience. 

2. Influencer collaborations, contrary to what many believe, absolutely aren’t dead. In fact, according to emarketer, in 2024 advertisers are expected to spend $5.89 billion on influencer marketing – a staggering 14.7% increase in spend YoY – with as many as 67% of social media users saying they would consider a brand or product if it was promoted by their favourite influencer.

3. Targeted paid advertising, using immersive, visually appealing images and video ad formats – including influencer-created content marked as “paid partnerships” – is key to targeting users in the awareness stages. 

Using dynamic product ads offer another shopping solution that’s primarily product-focused and highly used in remarketing campaigns to drive direct sales.

4. User-generated content (UGC) is currently considered one of the most successful strategies used by brands. Customers are encouraged to become brand advocates, display the product, share their experiences, and influence their circle.

UGC can also be integrated into your paid media strategy, creating an ad experience that blends in with the native content of the platform. 

To gather more UGCs, consider incentivising customers by offering automated discount codes that would be sent in return for their content or head to platform-specific creator marketplaces to find and collaborate with content creators who align with your brand’s values. Both Meta and TikTok offer such marketplaces.

Overcoming challenges in social commerce

Social commerce, like any digital domain, faces its own set of challenges. One major concern for users is the management and storage of their personal information, especially when it comes to sharing credit card and other delicate information.

Another common challenge is platform dependency and their ever-changing algorithms. Brands must constantly adapt and revisit their approach, testing to find the most effective strategies because what worked for them today might not work tomorrow.

Additionally, the high need for resources is another hurdle that brands face. With platforms demanding a high stream of content and high engagement levels, brands can find themselves stretched thin in managing content sourcing, collaborations, creative production and community management.

Future of social commerce

AI integration

Like anything digital, social commerce is expected to be influenced by AI. AI algorithms will further enhance how platforms interpret users’ signals in order to better analyse which stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in, whether that’s the evaluation stage or ready to buy, meaning content shown to each user will become more personalised.

The algorithms will also do a better job understanding the products listed on their market place, making more relevant suggestions to every user.

The integration of social SEO and search tools

With Tiktok leading the way in terms of positioning itself as a search engine and providing keyword insights, social media will begin to play an even bigger role in shopping decisions. Social media content is expected to become optimised not only for engagement but also for searchability.

This shift makes it crucial for brands to answer questions that their customers are searching for in the form of social, SEO-optimised video formats.

As social commerce grows, so does the importance of creating authentic, value-driven experiences. 

By staying ahead of trends and focusing on genuine engagement, brands can unlock the full potential of social commerce, ensuring they not only thrive in this exciting digital marketplace but also reap its benefits generating more cash.

Need a hand with your social commerce advertising? Get in touch with our experts.