For years, consumers have had the option of buying in stores, online, via mobile apps or (in some rare cases) mail-order catalog.

The latest option in the mix? Social commerce.

Numbers show 43% of Gen Z and 49% of Millennials have purchased products or services directly from social media platforms. This is big for brands vying for the attention of younger consumers. And they’re taking heed: Research conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of Sprout Social found that 73% of businesses are currently selling on social media platforms, and another 79% plan to within the next three years.

How are they doing it? By turning social posts into shoppable content. Doing so shortens the sales funnel and converts customers right when they’re inspired to make a purchase.

Let’s explore this more.

What is shoppable content?

Shoppable content is a type of content, such as a social media post, image, video or ad, that consumers can click through to make a purchase. For example, Instagram Product Tags let you highlight items from your catalog directly in your images and videos, so people can easily tap and learn more.

There are instances where the customer has to complete their checkout process on the brand’s website, but some shoppable content enables transactions all in one place. Shoppable content on platforms like Facebook, Instagram or TikTok that lets users buy without leaving the app is the backbone of social commerce.

Benefits of shoppable content

The shift away from physical stores to social shopping was always coming. But thanks to the pandemic, it accelerated by roughly five years. In the US, the volume of social commerce sales is expected to reach over $100 million by 2023.

This is a grand opportunity for brands to capitalize on these emerging trends. But be careful: Millennials and Gen Z only want to buy from brands that are authentic and transparent.

As you would with your campaigns, website or physical locations, be sure your shoppable content demonstrates your brand’s values and humanity. If you can create content that connects with your audience, it will become easier to attract and convert them.

Integrating shoppable content into your digital marketing strategy can yield numerous benefits:

Shorter sales funnel

With shoppable videos, social posts and ads, you help buyers get what they want when they want it. No hiccups or delays to extend the sales funnel.

Better customer experience

Millennials and Gen Z already use social media to search for products. So why not meet them where they are?
By creating content that is not only discoverable, but shoppable, you minimize the disruptions that lead to an abandoned shopping cart. In other words, an enhanced customer experience.

Increased brand loyalty

The best way to build trust and loyalty today? Storytelling.

Shoppable content is an opportunity to showcase real stories about real people who’ve used your product. The goal is to show off your product’s value while educating potential customers.

Improved conversion rates

Being in the right place at the right time is what marketing and advertising are all about. With targeted and personalized shoppable ads, you can increase the odds of a conversion.

But how do you make the most of your shoppable content campaigns? There are three key techniques brands can use to get better ROI:

  • Hyper-targeting by partnering with small, but niche, influencers
  • Investing in engaging shoppable content (e.g., Stories vs. static ads)
  • Choosing affordable items to showcase

Tommy Hilfiger and a few others are capitalizing on live streaming shopping events (especially since the pandemic). The brand partnered with celebrities and social influencers, including model Elias Riadi. During the event, viewers could add items to their carts for checkout after.

Walmart has gone all-in with live shopping events, hosted on their Walmart Live platform, YouTube channel and TikTok account. The retail giant regularly partners with influencers and celebrities to showcase new product lines and seasonal favorites.

The takeaway: Team up with relevant influencers, host a live event and make the checkout process seamless to maximize ROI.

Better competitive data (especially if you’re using a tool like Sprout Social)

The best way to start building shoppable content is to study what works. You do this by analyzing your past campaigns, along with those of your competitors. With Social Sprout, you can identify what posts, hashtags and topics resonate with your audience (based on historical performance).

This performance data, combined with social listening insights, can give you the context needed to build higher-converting social commerce campaigns.

The 4 main types of shoppable media

It’s time to build a shoppable media campaign. Which formats are the best to use?

As with most things in marketing, it depends.Who’s your target customer? What are you selling and in what industry? For example, a video may be better if you’re looking to entertain (while subtly showcasing products). And an Instagram carousel post is ideal if you want to make a collection of outfits or accessories front and center.

There are four common types of shoppable media. Consider testing a mix of each to see what resonates with your audience.

1. Shoppable social posts

You can publish shoppable posts on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Pinterest. It’s an excellent way to offer a product without disrupting their browsing session.

These posts contain shoppable images, similar to a product catalog—except clickable and immediately obtainable.

But the question is: Do they work? Simple answer…yes. Already today, at least one in four consumers uses social media to purchase products or services. Almost all respondents (92%) of a Facebook IQ survey said they have taken action (such as going to a website or making a purchase) right in the moment of seeing something on Instagram.

2. Shoppable video

Video is one of the top ways we consume online information. And 66% of consumers find short-form video as the most engaging type of content on social media. So why not turn your video posts into an immersive shopping event?

A recent report found that 84% of people have been convinced to buy a product after watching a brand video.

So imagine the conversion rate if you made it possible for viewers to buy right away. But what makes a good shoppable video? Here are two tips to help you get started:

Tip 1: Tell a story

People don’t watch long-form videos unless they’re relevant and timely. Consumers need context before they’ll invest any amount of time. This is where storytelling comes in handy. You should be able to tell a complete story within 10 minutes. If you can’t, consider breaking it up into a series.

Tip 2: Keep it short and sweet

If you have too much going on, viewers will lose interest quickly—69% prefer to watch a short video. So keep it simple. Focus on a single topic and break up your message using multiple calls to action throughout the video.

If you haven’t seen one, here’s an example of a YouTube video from Milk Makeup.

With more people consuming video content daily, it’s no surprise more businesses are investing in production. Especially when people are twice as likely to share videos with their family and friends than other forms of content.

With 40% of marketers already using shoppable video ads, now is the perfect time to build out your video strategy.

3. Shoppable UGC

What’s the key to gaining your audience’s trust? Earning social proof. This can be in the form of reviews, or in this case, an influencer’s post. We’re not talking large-scale influencers—anyone with a following (or visibility) can influence another user’s purchase.

In fact, consumers say user-generated posts are 76% more trustworthy than branded ads.

This is what makes social media the powerhouse it is today. Users jump on their platform of choice and read posts and comments from others. Some inspire and others promote action. And the most powerful for brands is shoppable user-generated content.

There are two ways to use user-generated content for social commerce:

  • Team up with an influencer to create a shoppable post to share with their followers.
  • Feature shoppable UGC gathered from customers, showcasing them on your own social feeds, website homepage and product pages. User-generated content provides social proof and adds visual inspiration to promote sales.

Here’s an example of how Grove Collaborative elevates a user-generated photo with product information and real customer reviews:

4. Shoppable ads

Afraid consumers are turning a blind eye to your ads? You should be, especially with more users adopting ad blockers. But there’s a better way to advertise: Shoppable ads.

These can be a mix of video and images to gain attention and even entice buyers. That’s because they resemble content on their social media feed. And like a shoppable post, consumers can make a purchase directly through the ad.

There are several types of shoppable ads:

  • Video: A 30-second clip where shoppers can click “buy now”
  • Image: An image that links out to your website
  • Text: Text overlaid over an image or video
  • Interactive scrollables: Allows users to engage by scrolling through the ad and finding products
  • Interactive grids: Similar to interactive scrolls but allows users to engage with each grid/gallery cell individually

These are just some of the ways you can design your ads. Get creative and test variations to see which works the best for your brand and audience.

Shoppable content examples from top brands

Shoppable content works for businesses of all sizes. Here’s a look at several real-world examples to inspire your next campaign.

Barbour increased sales 42% using shoppable Instagram posts

Barbour proved you don’t have to be a newcomer to make a splash on social media. The 125-year-old manufacturer started out selling outerwear for fishermen but now sells apparel for everyone (land and sea).

The brand used Instagram to connect with its audience and later decided to use shoppable Instagram posts to help customers find items to buy. It cut down the customer journey tremendously and increased their traffic by nearly 100% and sales by 42%.

Jane ramped up social sales 80% amid the pandemic

COVID-19 stopped consumers from visiting stores, but it couldn’t stop them from shopping online. And it panned out well for Jane, a boutique fashion shop for women and children.

Their marketing team used a mix of:

  • Shoppable product collections featuring limited-edition products with exclusive price drops for IG followers (this turned into a weekly promotion after gaining popularity)
  • Instagram Live Shopping events showcasing a selection of items (with pins on the items during the livestream for viewers to add to their bag)
  • Stories providing informative guides on how to checkout using IG (these were turned into Highlights featured at the top of their profile)

Aerie used YouTube video ads to drive 25% ROI

YouTube is no longer just a social media platform. It’s now one of several sales channels brands can use to promote their products. One way they’re achieving this is by using interactive video ads (with shopping features). Aerie, the apparel retail giant, is one of them.

The company wanted to simultaneously build brand love and omnichannel apparel sales for a Spring 2020 campaign, and decided YouTube would be the perfect platform to do it. The brand used YouTube video ads to connect with potential shoppers and showcase their latest products. The campaign resulted in:

  • Increased brand engagement
  • 25% ROI on ad spend
  • 9x more conversions from the past year

What makes this setup genius is that many users switch between YouTube and search to find information that influences their purchase. So by using YouTube shoppable ads, your customer’s path to purchase is more transparent (thanks to the father-child relationship between Google and YouTube).

Shoppable content is the foundation of your social commerce empire

It’s not too late to adopt social commerce into your digital marketing (and sales) strategy. In fact, YouTube is a newcomer, releasing its own version of shoppable video ads in 2020. And platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram are continuously evolving their e-commerce features.

Social shopping is still fresh, which means there’s plenty of room to stake your claim.

Just make sure you have the right tools in place. Thanks to our integrations with Shopify and Facebook Shops, Sprout helps brands seamlessly publish, track and manage shoppable content, so you can draw a direct line between social and your bottom line.

Ready to make shoppable content a core component of your social strategy? Sign up for a free, 30-day trial today.