Do Consumers Actually Shop Directly on Social Media Platforms? The State of Social Commerce in 2024

Once a place purely for keeping up with friends and sharing photos, social media has fast become the place to shop. In 2023, over 100 million U.S. shoppers made a purchase directly through a social media platform – up from just 78 million in 2020. As social networks continue to roll out new features enabling users to discover, research, and buy products without ever leaving the app, this figure is forecasted to exceed 149 million by 2025.

Welcome to the era of social commerce. It‘s a major shift in how consumers browse and buy online. But are people really comfortable making purchases while scrolling their feeds? What portion of sales are social platforms actually driving for brands? And which networks are delivering the goods when it comes to social shopping?

To find out, let‘s dive into the latest data on the state of social commerce in 2024 – and what it means for your brand‘s social media marketing strategy.

Social Commerce is the Fastest-Growing Ecommerce Channel

First, some definitions. Social commerce refers to the ability to sell products directly within a social media platform, either via a link to an ecommerce site or through native, in-app checkout. This is distinct from social media marketing designed to drive users to an external website to complete their purchase.

While social commerce is still just a fraction of overall retail ecommerce sales, it‘s by far the fastest-growing segment:

  • In 2024, U.S. social commerce sales will reach $56 billion, up 39% from 2023. For comparison, total U.S. ecommerce sales will grow "just" 13% this year.
  • Social‘s share of total U.S. ecommerce sales will climb to 4.2% in 2024, and surpass 5% by 2026.
  • Globally, social commerce is already an $800 billion market and on track to hit $3 trillion by 2028.

Social commerce sales growth chart
[Image: Chart showing U.S. social commerce sales growth from $27B in 2020 to projected $107B in 2027. Source: eMarketer]

Who‘s Buying on Social Media?

Currently, 37% of U.S. internet users ages 14 and up will make at least one purchase via social media this year. But adoption varies widely by demographic:

  • Age: 47% of Gen Z and 43% of Millennial internet users will buy on social in 2024, compared to just 16% of Baby Boomers. However, Gen X is the fastest-growing group of social buyers.
  • Gender: Women are slightly more likely than men to purchase via social, at 38% vs. 36% in 2024. Many apparel, beauty and home goods brands are finding success with female-focused social commerce.
  • Income: Households earning $100K+ annually are the most likely to buy on social (45%), indicating that social commerce isn‘t just for bargain hunters. Luxury brands take note.

Social media‘s influence extends beyond just the point of purchase though. Globally, 78% of consumers used social platforms for product discovery and research in 2023 – up from 74% in 2019. And a full 98% planned to make at least one social purchase that year.

Where Are Social Shoppers Spending?

As of 2024, the leading social commerce platforms in the U.S. by number of buyers are:

  1. Facebook: 77M buyers
  2. Instagram: 55M buyers
  3. TikTok: 36M buyers
  4. Pinterest: 14M buyers
  5. Snapchat: 12M buyers

Facebook and Instagram benefit from massive scale – nearly 3 in 4 U.S. adults use Facebook and half use Instagram monthly. Their built-in Shops feature, which allows businesses to create mobile-optimized storefronts directly within the apps, is used by over 1 million active sellers.

But the upstart TikTok is coming on strong. It‘s the third-largest social commerce destination in the U.S., and saw its buyer base surge 79% year-over-year in 2023. The short-form video app has found a winning formula with its TikTok Shop feature, which generated over $1 billion in GMV globally last year. Brands like Walmart are flocking to host shoppable livestreams on the platform.

How Social Platforms are Innovating the Shopping Experience

Every major western social platform now offers a robust suite of commerce features for brands. These include:

Facebook & Instagram Shops – Allows businesses to build customizable storefronts integrated within their FB/IG profiles. Includes in-app checkout, automated order management, customer service tools, and curated "Shops" tab in the apps. Over 1.2M businesses now use Shops monthly.

Shoppable Posts & Stories – Brands can tag products directly in feed posts, Stories, Reels, Live broadcasts – linking to product detail pages where users can get more info and complete a purchase. 79% of weekly Instagram users say they use it to discover new products.

TikTok Shopping – Launched in 2022, TikTok Shop brings an Amazon/Alibaba-style marketplace directly inside the app. Approved sellers can create a storefront, link products in videos, launch shoppable livestreams, and offer in-app checkout. Participating merchants are seeing a 38% higher conversion rate on TikTok vs other channels.

Pinterest Product Pins – Pinterest‘s flagship commerce feature allows brands to create "Product Pins" directly linking to their ecommerce sites. Appear in search results, product recommendations, and new "Shopping List" feature for users. 87% of U.S. Pinners use Pinterest for purchase inspiration.

Twitter x Shopify – In a first for the platform, Twitter is partnering with Shopify to let approved brands link their Shopify catalogs and create shoppable profiles and product carousels in the app. Still in limited rollout as of early 2024.

YouTube Shorts Shopping – After successful pilots of livestream shopping, YouTube expanded product tagging to Shorts in late 2023. Brands can link items directly in the short-form vertical videos and direct viewers to a product listing. Over 40% of YouTube viewers say they‘ve purchased a product in the past month after seeing it on YouTube.

Live Shopping: The Next Frontier of Social Commerce

Perhaps no trend better illustrates the power of social commerce than live shopping. A mashup of streaming video, product demos and flash sales, these interactive broadcasts let viewers purchase featured items in real time – often at exclusive discounts. It‘s QVC for the TikTok generation.

In Asia, where live shopping originated, it‘s already a $500B market. But it‘s also gaining steam fast in the west:

  • In the U.S., the live shopping market hit $20B in 2023 and will reach $42B by 2026.
  • 31% of U.S. shoppers say they made a purchase during a livestream event last year, up from 21% in 2021. Millennials are the most avid live shoppers.
  • Walmart reported a 7x increase in conversion rate and 10% larger basket sizes for shoppers interacting with its TikTok livestreams.

Unsurprisingly, the major social players are going all-in on live commerce:

  • TikTok – Live shopping is core to TikTok Shop, with thousands of creators hosting streams. Brands like Walmart, Samsung and KFC have launched 24-hour "TikTok Shops" featuring marathons of live content.

  • YouTube – After piloting with select creators in 2021, YouTube Shopping is now available to channels in 20 countries. Hosts can tag products from their own stores or brand sponsors in both regular videos and livestreams.

  • Instagram – 2023‘s "Live Shopping Fridays" series featured popular brands and influencers hosting weekly shoppable streams. IG says live broadcasts with shopping generate 8x more engagement.

  • Amazon – Not a social network per se, but Amazon Live is a dedicated destination for shoppable streams. Hosts range from Martha Stewart to micro-influencers, and viewers can purchase as they watch.

Best Practices for Selling on Social Media

So how can your brand maximize the potential of social commerce? Having a presence is table stakes at this point – but winning takes a strategic approach. Some tips:

1. Make it visual.

High-quality photos, graphics and videos are non-negotiable for stopping scrollers in their tracks. Invest in eye-catching visuals that showcase your products in action. User-generated content can be highly effective here.

2. Tailor content by platform.

Each social network has its own formats, features and audience. Rather than repurposing the same assets everywhere, create unique content that plays to each platform‘s strengths. Think TikTok‘s short, trend-driven videos vs. Instagram‘s curated aesthetic.

3. Partner with creators.

No one knows how to make waves on social better than native creators. Identify influencers who align with your brand and have them demo your products in organic posts and shoppable livestreams. Be sure to track attribution to prove ROI.

4. Incentivize social-exclusive buying.

Give users a reason to buy on social vs. your website with platform-specific discounts, product launches, and limited-time offers. Tease upcoming drops to build anticipation and FOMO.

5. Don‘t neglect customer care.

Meeting customers where they are means being ready to handle pre- and post-purchase questions on social too. Have a system for promptly responding to comments, DMs and reviews on each platform. A responsive brand builds trust.

6. Test, learn, optimize.

The key to success on fast-moving social platforms is being nimble. Experiment with new formats like shoppable Reels and livestreams. Use real-time insights to quickly double down on what‘s resonating and ditch what‘s not. Always be iterating!

The Future of Social Shopping is Bright

As Gen Z gains purchasing power and platforms evolve their commerce capabilities, shopping on social will only become more second-nature. We‘re on the cusp of a new era of fluid, frictionless buying behaviors.

For brands, this means the time to start building a winning social commerce strategy is now. Some trends to watch:

Virtual product try-on. Augmented reality (AR) filters that let users "try on" products like sunglasses, makeup and apparel before buying have proven to boost conversions. With Snap, Meta and TikTok investing heavily in AR tech, virtual try-on will become table stakes.

AI-powered personalization. Platforms are getting scary good at predicting what users want based on social behavior. Expect hyper-relevant product feeds and highly customized shopping experiences for each user, supercharged by AI.

Web3 & the metaverse. To win the social commerce game long-term, brands will need to start staking their claim in immersive virtual worlds too. We may soon be shopping for NFTs and digital goods right alongside physical products in our feeds.

Seamless social-to-IRL experiences. The future of social shopping is likely to blend the on- and offline worlds even further. Think shoppable videos that you can save to buy in-store later, or livestreams with 1-click delivery to your door. Social commerce will be a key part of the "phygital" shopping journey.

One thing is clear: the way we shop is fundamentally changing. Social media isn‘t just where product discovery happens anymore – it‘s becoming the storefront itself. Forward-thinking brands are realizing that social commerce belongs at the heart of the marketing strategy, not the margins. Will yours be one of them?