Social commerce, or the involvement of social networks to facilitate e-commerce transactions, is finally coming into its own. Here are the five hottest trends in bringing social design thinking into the shopping experience:
1. Social networks as storefronts
Wanelo, it can be argued, is a shopping-obsessed clone of Pinterest. Pinterest took a page out of Wanelo’s playbook, however, when it announced “Buyable Pins.” Now users discovering new products are transforming into customers who can purchase some items directly on Pinterest, using Apple Pay. Wanelo’s early exploration of this feature netted a 3x improvement in conversion rates versus sending users to an external website to make a purchase. Pinterest’s much bigger user base makes this a ripe opportunity for e-commerce marketers looking for their next greenfield opportunity to grow revenue.
Twitter is also testing in-network purchases, where shipping and payment information is given to Twitter and processing is handled by partners like Stripe. Even Google’s getting in on the act, announcing “Shop” buttons that may soon appear on search results. Transactions will happen via a separate Google product page.
2. Shop buttons invade news feeds
Within a span of six months, the major social networks have all rolled out or announced shoppable stories. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube all seem to have the same idea here, adding shopping-focused “Buy” and “Shop Now” buttons as options for advertisers. Unlike Pinterest and Wanelo, these are essentially differently worded calls to action that link to a brand’s or retailer’s e-commerce page where the transaction occurs.
3. Instagram product placement
Social marketers know that association with key influencers is a great way to proliferate word-of-mouth, and for fashion, Instagram is where it’s at. Disclosure is often murky, but if you’re favorite Instagrammer is wearing and talking about a product they absolutely adore, they might be more than passionate advocates; they could very well be in a paid partnership with the brand. According to Harper’s Bazaar, brands spend up to a billion dollars a year on sponsored Instagram posts. Savvy fashionistas like 22-year-old Danielle Bernstein makes up to $15,000 per Instagram post to her one million followers in cooperation with a brand.
4. Rise of the social media talent agency
Activating influencers like Danielle Bernstein at scale has given rise to the social media talent agency. Companies like Niche, Cycle, self-serve platform Brandfame, TheAudience, Gary Vaynerchuk’s GrapeStory and others allow brands to tap into the growing desire to market through the mojo of Millennials, who are often more convincing than brands themselves. Interestingly, Niche was recently acquired by Twitter, which took notice of their work for HP with the #BendtheRules campaign featuring Vine celebs like Zach King strutting their stuff:
5. Payments become social and frictionless
Have you ever heard of Square Cash? It’s a peer-to-peer payment system that makes it way too easy to send somebody money. Simply type in the person’s name, the amount you want to give them, hit send and it’s instantly added to their bank account. It works great, but there wasn’t initially a social layer — until Snapchat. Snapchat recently partnered with Square and introduced, what else, Snapcash. Like Square Cash, it works so fast, they had to show you how to do it in slow motion, just in case you missed it.
With Snapchat’s adoption, this peer-to-peer payment system has the potential to actually scale — going from one-to-one to one-to-many. Facebook’s messenger didn’t need to partner with a Square; they built their entire system in-house, but the pay feature works in basically the same way. Combined with an enterprising Millennial social media celebrity that has something to sell, this could be the future of social commerce.