Several years of research has gone into optimizing the ecommerce checkout process. Every facet of the customer experience has been peeled back, tested and tested again, resulting in an abundance of data marketers can use to optimize for conversions.

Social commerce, on the other hand, is the next frontier.

The latest evolution in online shopping comes with new limitations and opportunities. What worked on your ecommerce site may not make an impact in a crowded newsfeed. As consumers continue to embrace this distinctive checkout experience, understanding their motivations will be crucial to building a lucrative strategy.

We surveyed 1,000 US consumers to better understand what’s driving perceptions and behaviors around social commerce (i.e., did TikTok really make me buy it?)

According to our data, 65% of participants have already made purchases directly through social media. US retail social commerce sales are projected to exceed $56 billion by 2023, marking an opportunity businesses can’t afford to miss out on. This report unpacks what brands can learn from these early adopters and how they can become even more competitive in this uncharted market.

Brand awareness is the key to unlocking more purchases on social

People are spending more time on social media and consequently, they’re spending more time shopping. Seventy-one percent of consumers found themselves using social media more in the last year than ever before and 34% say they’re using it to learn about products, services and brands.

When you’re scrolling through a sea of content from friends, family and creators, posts that make you want to stop and shop are likely coming from brands you’re already familiar with. Social is one (crucial) lever in an integrated marketing strategy, so consumers may also learn about your brand in another channel and decide to turn to social for some quick product research.

 

Building buzz around your brand does more than just boost your reputation. Our survey found that 80% of consumers say that brand familiarity (i.e., knowledge of the brand) makes them more likely to buy on social. On top of that, our data shows a positive correlation between time spent on social media and the likelihood of purchase based on familiarity with a brand.

In an increasingly crowded social media landscape, there are myriad ways to get in front of your target audience. But what type of social content actually captures consumers’ interest when they’re inclined to buy?

When it comes to getting noticed, audiences are highly receptive to paid media. Consumers ranked in-feed ads as the most common method of finding new products to purchase, followed by discovery pages and story ads.

The takeaway: To get more ROI on social, you need to get noticed. A hybrid paid and organic social strategy can increase brand discoverability by getting your most popular content in front of relevant prospects right when they’re ready to buy.

Consumers use social commerce to treat themselves

Between a global pandemic, social justice movements and several environmental disasters, many of us are looking for some much needed stress relief. Social commerce seems to be inspiring people to indulge in retail therapy, as 71% of consumers are most likely to shop for themselves when buying directly from social.

Consumers shopping for personal enjoyment makes sense considering the targeted nature of paid social and algorithm-driven discovery pages. After all, the products they’re likely seeing are tailored to their own interests.

After more than a year’s worth of disruptions to their daily routines, consumers are envisioning what their lives might look like on the other side—and they’re shopping to suit these lifestyle changes, as well.

This might explain why apparel tops the list of most popular product categories to shop for when buying on social media, followed by media (i.e., movies, songs, etc.) and app subscriptions. When analyzing the data by gender, we found that women are also more likely to shop for arts and crafts, cosmetics, and jewelry. Men, on the other hand, show a more significant interest in app subscriptions and electronics.

Understanding the needs and wants of your target audience is more important than ever, thanks to demographic driven differences in social commerce habits. If marketers want to make in-platform sales, they’ll have to dig into audience data to find out what people are looking for and why.

The takeaway: If your audience is shopping for themselves, you need to know what compels them to hit “buy now.” Use a social media management tool to track how your audience varies by platform. From there, you can plan your product listings and promotion strategy based on consumer interest.

Brands need to rethink product listings to catch consumer attention

Social commerce user experiences are not one in the same. As networks continue to release transactional features that are unique to their own standards of engagement, marketers will need to rethink what an effective product listing looks like.

In this new world, the importance of compelling visual content cannot be understated. Consumers expect detailed product listings that make the most of a network’s capabilities by showcasing user-generated content, reviews, live video and more. The more detailed the listing, the more people are able to imagine the value your product can add to their day-to-day lives.

Consumers state that they are most likely to make purchases on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube—all three of which support media-rich listings. Both Facebook and Youtube have introduced shoppable live video to help brands bring the televised home shopping experience into the new decade. Instagram product listings allow brands to include tagged posts from real customers, giving users a more authentic look at why people love a product.

As social commerce features push the envelope on creative advertising, producing and collecting high quality video and photo content will only become more important.

The takeaway: Content-rich product listings are a deal-maker when it comes to social commerce. Luckily, you should be able to repurpose your existing social content to spruce up your shoppable posts. If you find that you’re light on visual content, assess your future social media strategy to see where there’s room to create more resources that can complement commerce initiatives down the line.

Ready, set, sell

Consumers turn to social media to make connections, but they stay to get inspired by content from influencers, creators and brands. With social commerce, they now have the power to act on that inspiration with little to no friction.

As buying on social becomes faster and easier than ever, brands will have to work to unravel what’s driving purchase decisions on individual platforms. Using this data as groundwork to inform your own tests and strategies will help get you closer to your end goal—driving more sales.

If you want to set yourself up for even more success, check out our additional data on the common issues that prevent people from making purchases on social. Just a few tweaks can take your social commerce experience to the next level.

About the Data

The consumer survey was conducted by Lucid between October 20-22, 2021 among 1,037 US adults ages 18-75. Selected participants were those who use at least one social media platform. Information collected includes gender, age, household income, self-reported minutes per day spent on social media, and social purchasing behaviors. Sprout recognizes gender beyond the binary, although some responses have been omitted due to sample size. Relationships between variables collected were analyzed using parametric statistics for statistical significance. Direct purchases through social media were defined as “purchases that were completed on a social platform, or purchases completed on a brand’s website after clicking a post from a social platform”.

The top 0.5% of data was winsorized to limit the impact of extreme outliers.

For questions about the data, please contact pr@sproutsocial.com.