​Social Commerce Can Still Happen. Here’s How.


Ultimately, that could be the future of social commerce: the perfect blend of content and context, all delivered within a mobile marketplace experience.

Ever since the big social networks appeared on the tech scene about a decade ago, there’s been talk of how to integrate e-commerce into the social media experience. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much to show yet for all these social commerce efforts.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest have all launched their versions of social commerce, but buying directly from social media hasn’t really caught on. For example, in Q2 2016, social media accounted for less than 3% of all traffic to e-commerce sites, and just 1% of all orders. During the 2015 holiday shopping season, social commerce only represented a tiny fraction – less than 2% - of all sales.


So what’s the problem? Why don’t people buy on social media?


One reason is that there is a huge difference between content and context. You can show the right content to the right people, but if it’s not shown to them at the right time, then it just doesn’t work. Getting the context right means that you’re showing people items they actually want to buy and at just the right time, all without interrupting their social media newsfeed experience.


That’s why Twitter’s “Buy” button ultimately failed. How many times have you been using Twitter and noticed some completely random “sponsored tweet” show up in your Twitter stream? That’s what it felt like when brands such as Adidas or Best Buy tried to use the Twitter “Buy” button in their tweets. It felt jarring – like something that didn’t belong. In other words, the context was all wrong.


Pinterest’s “buyable pins” have been one of the most successful examples of how social commerce can leverage purchase intent. If people are pinning items from a specific brand, then there is a relatively high probability that they are actually thinking of buying those items. That was always the promise of Pinterest – that people were showing purchase intent every time they pinned an item. It just makes sense that if people are already collecting a lot of pins for ideas on how to decorate their house, then a home furnishings brand could make buyable pins available to these people.


The same thing is true with Instagram, albeit to a lesser extent. Just because you are following a fashion brand on Instagram doesn’t mean that you necessarily want to buy their products. Maybe you just like their gorgeous photos. But, still, it shows considerably more intent to buy. And by making it very easy to buy right from an iPhone, Instagram may have a great way to capture impulse buying behavior.

​Social Commerce Can Still Happen. Here’s How.

Perhaps the next iteration of social commerce will involve a similar type of dedicated app experience where people can shop right from their mobile device. For example, consider Shoppi, a new social shopping app. People can follow fashion and lifestyle brands, just like on Instagram. And they also have access to a smart newsfeed that shows deals and content that have been specifically tailored to their tastes – so they’re not getting the wrong content shown to them.


Ultimately, that could be the future of social commerce: the perfect blend of content and context, all delivered within a mobile marketplace experience.

​Social Commerce Can Still Happen. Here’s How.
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