Shoppable Social – the next big thing or a flash in the pan?

Social is undoubtedly an integral part of the vast majority of consumers lives now, and brands approach to social has moved on from ‘should I use social’, to ‘how do I best use social’ for my audience.

With the average person spending around 1.5 hours on various social media platforms a day, the audience is ripe for targeted brand messages, which has been demonstrated through the exponential growth of paid branded content across the channel.

So what’s next to exploit the power of social? Many platforms and brands will say: Shoppable Social.

What is it?

Harnessing the power of huge follower bases on both brand and influencer channels, giving social users the opportunity to click through there and then to make a purchase sounds like a brand and consumers dream… but is it working out that way?

Whilst 54% of young people use social media to research products before purchase, and 31% using social to browse for new items, the number of users converting to buy is surprisingly low.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest have all jumped on the social selling bandwagon, but recent survey data suggests that 82% of social users have never made the leap to buy through their favourite channels.

So why is this?

A number of factors influence how we interact with our social networks, and in the wake of the Facebook data scandal and a worldwide shift in how we perceive the value of our privacy, trust in social networks is at an absolute low.

This translates through to us putting our money where our mouth is. Research is showing that whilst the majority of us use social to research and ultimately make a purchase decision, the purchase itself is still done elsewhere.

How do brands overcome this?

This gives brands a challenge – to not only build trust in their online offering but to work with social networks to increase trust in social shopping as a whole.

Development of user journey is likely to have a large part to play in making this behaviour feel more second nature – integrating the sales process into one seamless transaction without bouncing users around from social network, to external brand site and back again.

Consumer perception of ads on social is also proving to be a barrier. With the majority of purchase decisions being made based on recommendations from friends and influencers, obvious ads can discourage users as it feels like a forced ‘sales pitch’, rather than a natural discovery. This then takes the individuality out of the interaction and ultimately puts users off their purchase.

This ultimately directs social selling brands to focus their time, efforts and budget on the power of influencers to make social selling sing.

With transparency and trust of major influencers on the increase over social channels and branded content, users resonate well with the individuals and accounts relevant to them, making the social interaction process feel personal.

Misguided x Love Island 

An example of influencers and reactive activity working well for a brand can be seen in the partnership between Missguided and Love Island this year. With users being able to shop the cast members outfits directly from Instagram, the brand saw a 40% uplift in sales with a dramatically increased proportion of these generated from social.

So brands have two options, partner with major influencers, or approach things a bit differently.

Rather than generate sales directly through social, Snapchat and Amazon are trialling a new system which allows users to search products using the social network. By directing the Snapchat camera at objects, it’s link to Amazon will search that product on the Amazon store and give users the opportunity to cross over and purchase the product on Amazon’s platform.

Whilst visual search in itself isn’t new, this application is an innovative way to make social selling work in a way that may resonate better with users who trust major commerce brands, but not necessarily the social networks they’re using.

The conclusion?

Only time will tell if this new platform delivers better success than conventional social selling, but the opportunity to convert social users into customers across the shoppable social platform is an interesting space with implications across a range of industries.

How long will it be for example, until you can buy a ticket to a Sam Smith show from his Instagram feed, add an avocado to your Ocado trolley through Facebook or get that new book someone on the train is reading by searching with Snapchat.

Social shopping is certainly an interesting space with huge potential, and we can expect that it’s just a matter of time until social shops find their stride and become another integral part of the social media experience for all users.


Written by Oliver Calvert