The Future of Advertising: The Rise of Native Social Commerce

"Social media is the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage." – Amy Jo Martin, Founder/CEO of Digital Royalty

The way we shop is changing rapidly. Long gone are the days of traveling to physical stores or even browsing retailer websites on our laptops. Today, we can discover, consider and purchase products with a few taps on our phone – often without even leaving our favorite social media apps. Welcome to the world of native social commerce.

In this post, we‘ll dive into why social commerce is the future of advertising, explore the latest platform features and brand success stories, and share tips for riding this wave to drive results for your business.

What is Social Commerce?

At its core, social commerce is the merger of social media and e-commerce. It‘s the ability to shop products directly within social platforms, transforming them from places of inspiration and connection to places of action and transaction.

With social commerce, the entire buying journey – from initial product discovery to final checkout – happens without the user ever leaving the social app. This frictionless experience is a win-win: consumers enjoy greater convenience and faster purchasing, while brands benefit from higher engagement and conversion rates.

The Social Commerce Opportunity By the Numbers

Still not convinced social commerce is the next big thing in advertising? Let the data speak for itself:

  • Social commerce is skyrocketing: U.S. retail social commerce sales hit $37 billion in 2021, up 35% from 2020. That figure is projected to reach $80 billion by 2025. (eMarketer)

  • Consumers are on board: 57% of consumers report social media as the primary source for discovering new brands, and 44% say they‘re open to purchasing directly via social platforms. (GWI Commerce Flagship Report 2022)

  • Younger generations lead the way: 62% of Millennials and Gen Z have purchased through social channels, compared to 29% of Gen X and just 17% of Baby Boomers. As Millennials and Gen Z gain buying power, expect social commerce to surge. (Statista)

  • Brands see strong ROI: 60% of fashion and beauty brands report social commerce delivering ROI comparable to or better than their e-commerce sites. (Gartner)

How Social Platforms are Powering Social Commerce

The major social media players are in an arms race to build out their commerce capabilities and become go-to shopping hubs. Let‘s take a closer look at what each platform brings to the table:

Facebook: The OG Social Network Goes All-In On Shopping

As the world‘s largest social platform, Facebook is unsurprisingly leading the charge into commerce:

  • Facebook Shops: Launched in 2020, Shops enables brands to create custom storefronts that live on both Facebook and Instagram. Users can browse collections, save products, and check out without leaving the apps.
  • Shoppable Posts & Ads: Product tags can be added to organic posts and paid ads, funneling users to purchase in just a few clicks. This functionality extends to both images and videos.
  • Messenger & WhatsApp: Facebook‘s two massive messaging apps are becoming commerce channels in their own right, with features like product catalogs, payment integrations, and customer service chatbots.

Instagram: Inspiration Meets Transaction

With its highly visual nature and discovery-focused algorithm, Instagram is a natural fit for social shopping:

  • Instagram Shop: A dedicated shopping tab showcases personalized product recommendations, editors‘ picks, and shoppable collections from brands. In-app checkout enables seamless purchasing.
  • Shoppable Posts, Stories & Reels: Brands can tag products in feed posts, ephemeral Stories, and short-form Reels videos. Users simply tap to view product details and add to cart.
  • Livestream Shopping: Brands and creators can tag products during live broadcasts, driving real-time engagement and flash sales. The sense of urgency and FOMO is a powerful motivator.

Pinterest: From Pins to Purchases

Pinterest has long been a hub for inspiration and product discovery – now it‘s closing the loop with native commerce tools:

  • Product Pins: Billions of Pins are now shoppable, displaying key details like pricing, availability, and customer reviews. Pinterest‘s computer vision automatically identifies and recommends visually similar items.
  • AR Try-On: Powered by augmented reality, virtual try-on enables users to visualize how products like makeup and home decor will look in real life before buying. This reduces hesitation and boosts confidence.
  • Lens Camera Search: Users can snap a photo of any item in the real world to instantly surface similar, shoppable products on Pinterest. Visual search shrinks the gap between seeing and buying.

Snapchat: Immersive & Impactful Commerce

Though often overshadowed by larger rivals, Snapchat is proving its unique value in the social commerce mix:

  • AR Lenses: Snapchat‘s playful lenses aren‘t just for funny selfies – they‘re becoming a powerful try-before-you-buy tool. Users can virtually try on everything from sunglasses to sneakers to nail polish, then buy in a snap.
  • Native Stores: Brands can create permanent stores on their Snapchat profiles, giving followers direct access to browse and buy without switching apps.
  • Snapchat Scan: Much like Pinterest Lens, Scan uses computer vision to make the real world shoppable. Users can scan physical items or barcodes to surface similar products, details, and purchase links.

Brands Winning at Social Commerce

Now that we‘ve laid out the social commerce landscape, let‘s highlight some standout examples of brands putting these tools into action:

Sephora‘s Instagram Shop Spree

Cosmetics retailer Sephora has transformed its Instagram presence into a virtual storefront, leveraging every available commerce feature:

  • Shoppable posts and Stories showcase products in action, complete with tags for instant info and purchase
  • The ‘Swipe Up to Shop‘ CTA in Stories create a seamless path to products
  • Sephora‘s Shop tab houses an always-on catalog organized by category for easy browsing

The results speak for themselves: a 80% higher conversion rate on Instagram compared to other channels, plus valuable insights into which products resonate with their highly engaged audience.

Levi‘s Aces Automated Commerce with Messenger

To help shoppers find the perfect fit, denim brand Levi‘s launched an AI-powered chatbot on Facebook Messenger. Customers engage in natural conversation with the bot to:

  • Get answers to FAQs about sizing, styling, and availability
  • Receive personalized product recommendations based on their preferences
  • Complete purchases directly in the chat window, no app switching required

This automated yet high-touch approach paid off, with the chatbot driving 30% larger orders compared to Levi‘s website average. It‘s a masterclass in frictionless, conversational commerce.

Allbirds Cracks the Snapchat Code

Sustainable sneaker brand Allbirds is reaching the next generation of eco-conscious consumers by testing and learning on Snapchat:

  • Sponsored AR Lenses allow users to virtually try on Allbirds‘ signature shoes in fun, branded environments
  • Shoppable Snap Ads drive users to key product pages with ‘Shop Now‘ and ‘Learn More‘ CTAs
  • Native shops let fans browse the full collection and check out without ever leaving Snapchat

This full-funnel strategy is paying off, with Snapchatters who engage with try-on Lenses being 4.4x more likely to purchase. Allbirds is proving the power of immersive, impactful social commerce experiences.

Tips For Social Commerce Success

Impressed by those brand wins? Here‘s how to set your own business up for success with social commerce:

  1. Start with your audience: Focus on the platforms where your target customers already spend their time and are most open to shopping. Not sure? Survey them!
  2. Prioritize discovery: Make sure your social content and creative stops the scroll and showcases your products in action. Aim to inspire and educate, not just promote.
  3. Streamline the path to purchase: Tag your products early and often, and make use of shopping-centric CTAs. The fewer taps to transaction, the better.
  4. Experiment with new formats: From Stories to livestreams to AR, lean into the unique, immersive capabilities of each platform to create thumb-stopping commerce experiences.
  5. Track, learn, and optimize: Closely monitor your social commerce metrics – which products, content types, and CTAs are driving the most engagement and sales? Double down on what‘s working and ditch what‘s not.
  6. Integrate your tech stack: Connect your social commerce data with the rest of your sales and marketing tech for a holistic view of the customer journey. This will help with retargeting and measuring true ROI.
  7. Don‘t ‘set it and forget it‘: Social commerce is a rapidly evolving space. Stay on top of new features and best practices, and be ready to continually test and iterate on your strategy.

The Future of Social Commerce

We‘ve covered a lot of ground in this post, but really we‘re just scratching the surface of social commerce‘s potential. As platforms continue to add new commerce capabilities, and digital-native generations amass more spending power, the future looks bright for this advertising revolution.

Here are a few predictions for where social commerce may be headed in the coming years:

  • Virtual influencers rise: Imagine virtual avatars, powered by AI and CGI, becoming your most trusted product recommenders and salespeople. As the technology advances, this sci-fi concept could become reality.
  • In-app coins go mainstream: We‘re seeing platforms from TikTok to Twitter experiment with their own virtual coins and points. Expect this gamified currency to become further integrated with social commerce.
  • Brands launch their own social shops: Why rely on the major platforms when you can build your own social commerce hub? As tools become more accessible, brands may start creating bespoke social shopping experiences to own the relationship and data.
  • Social becomes the new search: More product searches may start on social vs. Google as in-app buying becomes more ubiquitous. Social referrals and testimonials hold powerful sway over purchasing decisions.
  • Headless commerce booms: To keep pace with the demands of selling everywhere, brands will increasingly turn to headless commerce architecture. This decoupled back-end enables greater agility across channels and touchpoints.

One thing is clear: social commerce is not a passing fad or a mere add-on to your existing advertising mix. It‘s a fundamental shift in how consumers discover, engage with, and purchase from brands. Those who embrace and prioritize this shift will be well-positioned to drive outsized results.

So go forth and sell socially! Your customers are waiting to shop with you, right in their favorite apps. Meet them where they are with thumb-stopping, wallet-opening social commerce experiences. The future of advertising is here – and it‘s shoppable.