Your Go-to-Guide for Social Commerce (Social Media Shopping)

October 04, 2023
by Joe Singh

In the age of endless scrolling and double-tapping, there’s a massive wave taking over the digital world. It’s called social commerce — or social media shopping, to the uninitiated. And the numbers are jaw-dropping. We’re looking at global sales via social media reaching a whopping $1.298 billion at the end of 2023, with predictions soaring to almost $3 trillion by 2026.

Although the West is just catching this wave, China’s been riding it for a while, thanks to their all-in-one super app, WeChat. But while China’s way ahead in the game, the U.S. isn’t just watching from the sidelines. The American digital landscape is preparing for about 108 million social shoppers by 2025, with sales possibly hitting a sizzling $107.17 billion — up from 53 million in 2022. 

What Is Social Commerce?

Woman being photographed for social media

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s explain the concept of social commerce. Social commerce, or social media shopping, is changing how brands communicate with consumers.
Ever found yourself scrolling through a friend’s Instagram post, admiring that chic handbag or sleek coffee machine, and wishing, “If only I could buy it right here!” Well, my friend, you’re onto something big. Enter social commerce, the fresh-faced fusion of social media and online shopping.

So, what’s the big deal? Imagine this: 4.59 billion people, or nearly 57% of everyone on the planet, are constantly flicking through their social feeds. Now, for brands, that’s not just a sea of entertainment — it’s an ocean of potential customers. But here’s the catch: In this vast digital marketplace, how does one brand stand out from another? The answer: By truly understanding what makes shoppers tick and harnessing the magic of social commerce tools to elevate their shopping journey.

But it’s not just about slapping a “Buy Now” button on a tweet or a story. It’s so much richer than that. Imagine Facebook and Instagram Shops morphing into lively digital markets, chatbots churning out personalized recommendations, and AR tools letting you virtually “try before you buy.”

Moreover, social commerce is deeply, well, social. Beyond the transactions and tech, it’s about crafting stories, fostering genuine connections, and curating communities. People are dedicating a hefty chunk of their day to platforms like these, and with Gen Z and millennials leading the social shopping parade, it’s evident that social commerce is not a passing trend; it’s our new digital norm.

How Is Social Commerce Different from Regular E-commerce? 

E-commerce epitomizes structured online shopping. Websites like Amazon or Target represent large digital storefronts where users search, review, and purchase with intent. It’s purpose-driven, leveraging tools like search bars, reviews, and filters for a streamlined experience.

In contrast, social commerce introduces spontaneity. Platforms like Instagram or Facebook evolve into interactive marketplaces, drawing users into impromptu buying experiences. Influencer collaborations and in-app purchases typify this model, making shopping an engaging, conversational activity.

The core difference lies in the platform and user experience. E-commerce is methodical, focusing on search and reviews, while social commerce is dynamic, relying on social interactions, real-time chats, and algorithms. Both offer unique shopping experiences tailored to distinct online behaviors.

Should My Business Use Social Commerce Platforms? 

Social Commerce shopping on Instagram

In today’s digital era, social commerce merges e-commerce and social media, offering businesses an exciting avenue for growth. Here are three reasons to consider integrating social commerce into your strategy:

1. Audience Expansion:

The rise of social media provides a unique chance to reach diverse audiences, especially as traditional customer outreach costs increase. By integrating sales into social media narratives, businesses can attract and retain consumers effectively.

2. Genuine Connections:

Through real-time interactions on popular platforms, businesses can enhance their brand image. Since many shoppers rely on online reviews, authentic engagements on social media can set a brand apart.

3. Strategic Insights:

Social commerce offers rich consumer data. Tracking engagements and trends on these platforms allow businesses to refine their strategies and adapt swiftly.

While social commerce might not be the sole avenue for every business, its benefits are hard to ignore. Whether it’s about reaching a wider audience, building trust, or drawing actionable insights, integrating social commerce might just be the boost your business needs in today’s competitive landscape.

How to Get Started Selling on Social Media: Instagram, Tiktok, Amazon, and More! 

Remember the days when social media was just for sharing memes, showing off holiday pics, and catching up with old friends? Those days are rapidly becoming history as the lines between social networking and online shopping blur. Now, when you scroll, you’re just as likely to see a tempting “Buy Now” button as you are a cute cat video. 

So, what’s driving this change? Look no further than the social commerce revolution, inspired by China’s holistic approach to digital integration. As the West looks to China’s WeChat for inspiration, brands strive to create an integrated experience akin to walking through a digital mall. Let’s navigate through the evolving corridors of this marketplace and see where brands are setting up their shops.

Facebook and Instagram’s Social Commerce Platforms

As two of Meta’s biggest brands, Facebook and Instagram both have a hand in the social commerce game already. The giant of social media, Facebook, tops the chart with 56.1 million buyers as of 2021. They’ve rightly recognized the social commerce potential, introducing Facebook Shops in 2020. Initially aimed at assisting small businesses during the pandemic, there’s potential for this feature to become integral for brands big and small.

Meanwhile, with its bedrock in influencer culture, Instagram brings style and ease to shopping. The introduction of Instagram Checkout in 2019 was a game-changer, allowing users to buy without even leaving the platform. And with the shop tab right on the homepage since 2020? It’s shopping made irresistibly simple.

Kickstart Your Instagram and Facebook Shops

Here’s a step-by-step process to help you start selling on Instagram and Facebook. Let’s get started. 

  1. Review Your Checkout Options

PSA: From June 5, 2023, all newly created shops will use Checkout with Facebook and Instagram.

Already have a shop from before that date? You’ve until April 24, 2024, to switch to this checkout method.

  1. Essentials Before You Dive In

  • For Newbies: If you don’t have a Facebook business Page or a product catalog yet, relax. The setup process will guide you to create both.
  • For Those Who’ve Been Here: Ensure you have full control over your Facebook Business Account and have the necessary permissions for both your Page and product catalog.
  • Eyeing Instagram? You’ll need an Instagram Business Account linked to your Facebook Business Account. And the good news? If you only plan to conduct social commerce on Instagram, there’s no need to stress over setting up a Facebook Business Page.
  1. Setting Up Your Shop

  • Begin: Navigate to the Create Your Shop page.
  • Importing Products: If you’re already selling on platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce, you can easily import your products. Just select “Sync a Partner Platform” and follow the on-screen instructions.
  • Choose Your Checkout Method: You’ll be prompted to select a checkout method. Follow the prompts.
  • Platform Selection: Decide where you want to set up shop — Facebook, Instagram, or both. Select the appropriate account or create a new one.
  • Catalog Selection: Pick the product catalog you wish to link to your shop. If you don’t have one, the system will create one for you named “Items for [Your Page Name].”
  1. Finalizing Your Shop

  • Product Additions: Populate your shop with products. By default, all products in your catalog will appear in your shop, but you have control over their visibility.
  • Grouping Products: Organize your products by creating collections. This helps you showcase specific items or themes.
  • Personalize: Modify your shop’s appearance to align with your brand’s aesthetics.
  • Launch: After a quick review from the Facebook team, your shop will go live, ready for customers!

Bonus Tip: Upon setup completion, Shop Pay by Shopify will be activated automatically for easy payments. However, you can choose to disable this feature at your convenience.

TikTok and Social Commerce

The new kid on the block, TikTok, is backed by a Chinese legacy and an innate understanding of the market. Major collaborations with brands like Walmart hint at its e-commerce ambitions. With its incredibly tailored algorithm and a young, engaged audience, expect explosive growth in its social commerce sector.

TikTok offers two distinct e-commerce solutions: TikTok Shop and Storefront. Both provide access to TikTok Shopping’s comprehensive suite of features and advertising tools, but each has its unique setup process.

Set Up TikTok Shopping

To set up TikTok Shop, merchants should access the TikTok Seller Center. This platform offers all the necessary tools and steps to seamlessly transition into the TikTok eCommerce space. Additionally, integration via the TikTok Marketing API is also available.

Steps for Setting Up TikTok Shop in the US:

  1.  Create a Shop:

  • Go to the TikTok Seller Center.
  • Opt to become a seller either via a TikTok account or through phone & email.
  • Once logged in, establish your shop’s Warehouse/Pickup Address:
    • Specify the country/region and street address.
    • Designate a contact person.
    • Insert the postcode.
    • Provide your phone number.
  • Following this, specify a return address for your store:
    • You can use the Warehouse/Pickup address for returns by selecting “Set as return address.”
    • Alternatively, establish a separate return location by entering a Return Warehouse Address, along with a contact person, postcode, and phone number.
  • Agree to the terms and conditions, and click “Start Your Business.
  1. Verify Your Documents:

  • Navigate to “Verify Documents” from the TikTok Seller Center homepage, then click on “Upload Documents.”
  • Under “Seller Information,” select your business type: corporation or individually-owned business.
  • Specify a shop name.
  • For individually-owned businesses, upload images of the front and back of a relevant ID: passport, national ID, or driver’s license.
  • For corporations, the required documents include:
    • A government-issued identification of the legal representative, company director, or significant person.
    • A valid business license or similar official documentation.
    • After document submission, await account approval. An email will be sent in case of any discrepancies or if resubmission is required.
  1. Bind a Bank Account:

  • After your documents have been verified, link a bank account to facilitate payments and returns.
  • Click on “Link Bank Account” from the homepage and then “Link Account.”
  • Fill in the necessary details: account name, bank name, bank account number, email, address, and building number.
    • For individual businesses, ensure the account name matches the personal name registered to your TikTok business.
    • For corporations, the account name should correspond with the company name.
  • Complete the form and click “Submit.”

Using TikTok Storefront

Currently, TikTok Storefront is exclusively available to pre-onboarded merchants. Here are some ways you can use the TikTok Storefront. 

  • Partner Platform: Introduce your storefront using an approved e-commerce partner platform. This ensures instant synchronization of your products from your e-commerce platform to TikTok For Business and TikTok Store Manager.
  • Manual Setup: Directly launch from your TikTok For Business account. This involves crafting product catalogs on the TikTok Business Center and setting up a storefront on TikTok Store Manager.
  • API Integration: Utilize the TikTok Marketing API to create an app, set up, and manage your storefront.

TikTok Storefront Through Shopify

Selling through the TikTok Storefront is easy using Shopify. Here’s how you can get started.

  • Visit the Shopify App Store.
  • Locate the TikTok app.
  • Click “Add App” for TikTok channel integration.
  • Post installation, find the TikTok channel on your Shopify Admin Dashboard’s left sidebar.

Linking Accounts:

  • Pair your “TikTok For Business” account with your Shopify store.
  • If already logged into TikTok, hit “Connect.” To switch accounts, choose “Switching User.”
  • Once connected, the TikTok Business Dashboard will be accessible for efficient channel management.

To successfully sell on TikTok, merchants must first set up their online storefront through the TikTok Seller Center, ensuring all business verifications are in place. Once established, the next step is to promote the store by crafting engaging video content using TikTok’s specialized tools. With tools such as Video Template and Smart Video, sellers can create captivating content. 

Leveraging the TikTok Ads Manager, businesses can then target and refine their marketing strategies, ensuring mobile-centric settings and effective A/B testing. By harmonizing storefront setup with strategic ad campaigns, merchants can effectively capture the attention of the vast TikTok audience and drive sales.

Twitter (Now X)’s Social Commerce Platform 

Twitter, now going by the name X,  has recently rolled out its “Shops” feature, an exciting new addition that permits users to display up to 50 products on their profile. This evolution mirrors the commerce functionalities seen on other platforms like Instagram and Facebook. However, X’s approach is slightly different. Instead of completing the purchase on Twitter, potential buyers are redirected to the seller’s website or app to finalize the transaction.

Setting Up Your Shop: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Initiating Setup: Begin by visiting the Shopping Manager Dashboard.
  2. Grouping Your Products: Before launching, you’ll need to organize your items into product sets. Navigate to “Product Sets” under the Catalog section and choose between “Manual Setup” or “Filtered Setup.” Follow the on-screen instructions to group your products.
  3. Activating Your Shop: Within your Storefront options, go to the Overview. If your shop appears as “inactive,” click on the “Setup” button. Fill in your shop’s name, description, and link it to a product set. Once all details are finalized, click “Publish” at the top-right corner.

Highlighting Your Products with Twitter Shop Spotlight

  • Accessing Spotlight Features: On your Shopping Manager dashboard, select “Storefront” and then “Shop Spotlight.”
  • Choosing Products to Feature: Under “Featured Products,” pick the product set you desire to showcase. Remember, only the first five items will appear in the spotlight.
  • Publishing: After selecting your products, press the “Publish” button situated at the top right.

You can then view your showcased products at the top of your Twitter profile in a rotating carousel format, visible on the Twitter mobile app.

Pinterest Social Commerce

Ah, the haven of dream boards and inspiration! Pinterest might not boast the user numbers of Facebook, but when it comes to finding inspiration for your next purchase — be it for fashion, interior decor, or health — Pinterest has carved a niche. On this platform, it’s not just about discovery — it’s about dreaming and then buying.

Can You Shop Directly on Pinterest?

The short answer? Yes and no. Traditionally, Pinterest doesn’t allow direct in-app purchases. You need an e-commerce website for the actual transaction. However, there’s a twist! Pinterest is now piloting in-app checkouts for specific “Product Pins,” exclusive to iOS or Android users in the U.S. More regions will likely have access soon. And with its unique Product Pins, savvy advertisements, and innovative shopping tools, Pinterest is primed to smoothly lead users from discovery to purchase.

Is Amazon a Social Commerce Platform? 

Even the largest e-commerce platform in the world is changing its formatting to fit with the new wave of social commerce. Amazon now emphasizes video, lifestyle, and influencer content, much like what you’d expect on social media sites. Users can explore content tailored to their hobbies and interests, and there’s even a feature allowing them to “follow” their favorite brands for updates. 

With Amazon Live Video, brands and influencers can directly engage audiences, driving instant sales. As Amazon integrates these social features, it’s not just boosting sales but also collecting valuable user insights. So, when we ask if Amazon is becoming a social commerce brand, the growing list of features seems to suggest a resounding “yes.”

The Fusion of Social Media and E-Commerce: A New Frontier for Business

The transformation of social media platforms into e-commerce hubs is undeniable. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, once reserved for memes and moments, are now digital marketplaces brimming with “Buy Now” buttons and seamless shopping experiences. These opportunities extend to businesses that want to reach more customers than ever before. 

The line between online shopping and social networking has blurred, with even giants like Amazon adopting social features, emphasizing video content, and promoting influencer-driven sales. As businesses, it’s crucial to harness this convergence of social networking and e-commerce to reach potential customers more effectively and personally.

Need help setting up your social media shops? Reach out to professionals like the team at Joseph Studios to start growing your digital footprint today.


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