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When is Social eCommerce the Right Fit?

April 15, 2024

Summary: Do you have an eCommerce business and want to expand your marketing efforts? Do you need to know if social eCommerce is the right fit?

Editor’s note: This popular blog post on eCommerce and social media was updated in April 2024 to add more content on examples, as well as update some of the stats shared.

Social eCommerce is the combination of social media and online shopping platforms, which seamlessly integrate to allow consumers to purchase products directly through social media. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest all have popular social eCommerce functionality.

In today’s digital age, social eCommerce might seem like a no-brainer tool that every business should tap into to add another sales stream. For consumers, it makes shopping more convenient and reduces friction, leading to higher conversion rates. For businesses, it opens up new marketing opportunities and allows for better targeting of potential customers.

Have you been considering social eCommerce for your business but need to be sure it is the best marketing platform for your brand, products, or services? We all know the power of social media, with nearly six billion people expected to use the various platforms within the next few years.

To help you get started, let’s examine social eCommerce in more detail to determine whether it’s the right fit.

What Is Social eCommerce?

Social eCommerce (sometimes called Social Media Ecommerce) is the practice of using social media as a marketing channel for an ecommerce business. More traditionally, you can use social media platforms to connect with your customers, build brand awareness, and create an interest in the products or services available through your online store. Sales are then generated by interested consumers leaving the social media platform for your ecommerce site, where purchases are completed.

Here’s where the difference lies. With social ecommerce, companies sell products or services directly on social media, so customers can select a product and complete the purchase without ever leaving the social media app. So if you’re talking about your products on Facebook, then social ecommerce is the act of selling those products right on Facebook.

Conversely, Social Selling is when brands identify prospects and cultivate relationships using social media (and the topic of an entirely different blog post!)

Social eCommerce Examples

Social commerce is transforming shopping experiences. Fashion brands like CLUSE utilize shoppable Instagram posts with user-generated content for a personal touch, while beauty brands like Sephora host live streams on TikTok with influencers for real-time interaction and deals. Fitness brands like Gymshark partner with social media stars to showcase products in action, and dedicated platforms like TikTok allow brands to set up shops directly within the app. By understanding the strengths of each platform and tailoring strategies to their target audience, businesses can leverage social commerce to connect with potential customers and drive sales.

When is Social Ecommerce the Wrong Fit?

While social eCommerce can be a powerful tool for many businesses, it’s not always the right fit for every company. Here are some examples where it might not be the best choice:

B2B Companies: social eCommerce is primarily focused on the business-to-consumer (B2C) market, where consumers are more likely to make spontaneous purchases based on social media browsing. Business-to-business (B2B) purchases, on the other hand, tend to be more deliberate, with longer sales cycles and decision processes that might not align well with the fast, impulsive nature of social shopping.

Complex Products or Services: if your products or services require a lot of information or education before purchase, social eCommerce isn’t the best option. The social media shopping experience is usually streamlined for quick and easy purchases. If customers need to understand complex features, compare detailed specifications, or view a lot of technical information, a traditional eCommerce site might serve you better.

Privacy-Conscious Customers: if your target customer base is very concerned about data privacy, they won’t be comfortable with social eCommerce. Because social media platforms collect a lot of data about users, some people might prefer not to make purchases this way.

Signs Social eCommerce is the Right Fit for Your Brand and its Product or Service

Unless your business has any of the qualifiers that make it an outright bad fit for social eCommerce, chances are, social eCommerce is a sales avenue you should at least explore. To help you out, here are some signs that social eCommerce might be a good fit for your business:

Consumer-Focused Products: social eCommerce is especially effective for consumer-oriented products in industries like fashion, beauty, and home goods. These products tend to be visually appealing and well-suited to the image-heavy platforms used in social eCommerce.

Active Social Media Presence: if your business already has an active and engaged social media following, social eCommerce can be an excellent way to monetize that audience. It provides a seamless transition from browsing to buying, increasing the likelihood of impulse purchases.

Influencer Partnerships: if you’re actively working with influencers or are considering doing so, social eCommerce can be a powerful tool. Influencers can directly promote your products and make it easy for their followers to purchase them.

Young Target Demographic: younger consumers, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, are more comfortable with social media and more likely to make purchases this way. If they make up a significant portion of your target market, social eCommerce could be very effective.

Visually Appealing Products: social media is highly visual, and products that look good in photos or videos can perform well. If your products are aesthetically pleasing or if their value can be demonstrated visually, social eCommerce is likely a great option.

Quick Purchase Decisions: products that require little research or deliberation to purchase tend to perform well on social media. The convenience of social shopping is particularly well-suited to low-risk, impulse-buy products.

Does Social Ecommerce Compliment Your Marketing Strategy?

Is social ecommerce already part of your marketing strategy, and you have not acted on it, or do you need an expert to help you create a social media strategy? Social media is about building relationships. You must post consistently, test what works, and create an online community that becomes passionate about your brand, products, or services.

What can social media offer you as an ecommerce business? It allows you to engage with prospects and customers directly, promote your products and services, and ultimately drive traffic to your branded app or ecommerce website. You can also provide pre-and post-sales customer support and gain insight into your market and industry.

Is there a social media platform that is best for ecommerce? It depends on your sales and marketing goals, your type of product or service, and your target market. If the business community is your focus, you should use LinkedIn; Facebook and Instagram are direct sales and social commerce leaders, while Pinterest is best for lifestyle marketing. TikTok continues to be a fast-growing social media platform, so if your market demographic is there, you could include it in your social ecommerce marketing strategy.

Whichever social media platform you choose, there are lots of sales and marketing opportunities that could draw customers to your ecommerce site and bring dollars to your bottom line.

Does Your Target Market Use Social Media To Purchase?

This is the million-dollar question. Who is your target market for the products or services? Is it Boomers (ages 60+), Gen X (ages 44-49), Millennials (ages 28-43), or Gen Z (ages 12-27)? Without that knowledge, there’s no way for you to know which social platforms you need to target.

To meet your audience where they are, you need to know on which social media app they spend their time and how they like to shop. In research on the shopping habits of the different generations, HubSpot has identified which social media platforms each group prefers and where they search for products:

  • Gen Z: Instagram, YouTube, TikTok – finds products on social media, YouTube ads, and internet searches.
  • Millennials: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram – finds products on social media, internet search, and YouTube ads.
  • Gen X: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram – prefers internet searches, retail stores, and television advertisements to find products.
  • Boomers: They rarely find products on social media; they prefer an internet search, retail stores, and television advertisements.  

Will Your Product Sell On Social Media?

There are many factors to consider when determining if social ecommerce is the right fit for your business. Besides going where your target market is spending time, you also need to be sure your product will sell on social media and whether you have sufficient resources to spend on the platforms. People engage more with products that create visual interest. If your visual content is interesting, people are more likely to follow, comment, and like your posts. And when they are invested, consumers will follow the links to your ecommerce platform and make a purchase.

Social Media for eCommerce

Social eCommerce has revolutionized the way businesses connect with consumers, creating a seamless blend of social engagement and online shopping. It provides an opportunity to turn social media followers into customers, leveraging the visually-driven and interactive nature of these platforms. However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. While ideally suited for B2C companies with visually appealing products and a younger demographic, it may not be effective for B2B companies, those with complex products, or businesses that serve a niche market.

Ultimately, determining whether to use social eCommerce should be based on a careful evaluation of your business model, products, target audience, and resources. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, staying informed and adaptable is key to finding the best strategies to connect with your audience and grow your business.

If you’d like to chat with us about implementing a social eCommerce storefront or just want to learn more about it, please get in touch!

About the Author

Rick spent 20 years in the insurance industry in finance, primarily developing reporting platforms for B & C stakeholders.   His ability to speak to consumers of data (managers and analysts) and translate their needs to programmers led him to start his own digital marketing agency in 2004 to develop data driven solutions for business owners. 


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