Social Media’s Transition Into a Digital Marketplace


Social Media’s Transition Into a Digital Marketplace

Jamie Lichtenstein

In the last year, the social industry has grown into a space for more than inspiration; the vertical has made strides to become a place of product exploration and purchase. Top platforms have invested resources to drive users through the consumer decision journey. The purchasing process was previously fragmented: discovery and purchase were separate tasks, and now platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat have married these actions for shoppers, ultimately resulting in sales and seamless shopping experiences.

eCommerce is Influencing Social Media 

Social sites have felt pressure to modify the way they participate in digital retail in response to eCommerce trends. Following the rise of Amazon, social platforms have had to change the way they interact with shoppers. More than ever, people rely on social media to help them make purchasing decisions: 54% of millennials use social channels to research products before they buy.

Big-box retailers and eCommerce giants continue to pressure the digital landscape to refine shopping experiences. So, you may ask, what’s new on social media that makes the purchasing process simpler?

Instagram: Enhanced Checkout and Shopping in the Influencer Ecosystem With Checkout 

Instagram debuted its Checkout feature this year, which means shoppers don’t need to visit a retailer’s website to complete a purchase. Additionally, Instagram rolled out a new tool called “Shopping from Creators.” This gives influencers the ability to tag brands, which then leads to a checkout page where users can purchase items within the app. This is part of Instagram’s social commerce effort to “reduce the number of steps it takes from discovering a product on the platform to purchasing.” With influencer marketing on the rise, this feature closes the loop between creators and conversions. In fact, according to Instagram, “130 million users engaged with shoppable posts every month as of March 2019, up from 90 million in September 2018, when Instagram introduced shopping to its Stories feature.”

Instagram is arguably the most effective platform for eCommerce right now given that the entire shopping process is simplified and personalized: everything from discovery to checkout is streamlined.

Snapchat: Driving Commerce through Augmented Reality 

One of Snapchat’s biggest criticisms has been feasibility surrounding driving commerce on a platform. However, the platform has made efforts to make its top-shelf units, like augmented reality lenses, shoppable. In collaboration with Amazon, Snappers can point their Snapchat camera at a physical product or barcode and purchase on Amazon. This integration marries the user-friendly nature of a social platform with the agility of Amazon.

Pinterest: Encouraging Purchase Behavior through Curation

To make shopping simpler on Pinterest, shoppers can dive into a brand’s catalog by clicking “more from [brand].” This allows the brand to group Pins together and organize the products available on Pinterest. The update aggregates all Pins, and these Pins drive to the eCommerce page of the individual product. Users receive personalized recommendations based on what they have interacted with on the platform previously.

Facebook: Collections and Marketplace 

Facebook continues to be a tried-and-true social platform for driving sales. One of the most popular ways to drive conversions on Facebook is through Collection ads.

Facebook has furthered their eCommerce efforts by empowering consumers through their C2C surface, Marketplace. This gives brands and individuals the chance to capitalize on the interactions already taking place on Facebook. More than 800 million people globally use Marketplace each month. This feature helps distinguish Facebook as a retail-focused platform--even if it is for personal use.

Twitter: Driving Conversions through Conversations 

Twitter prides itself on being the catalyst for real-time conversation and the place for users to converse in an authentic manner. In order to adapt to the commerce-forward mentality of other platforms, Twitter introduced image and video website cards. Building upon this, the platform also introduced clickable pre-roll ads and carousels. Although these units are designed to drive conversions, Twitter has not created cohesion between social and eCommerce at the same rate as its competitors. 

What Does This Mean In the Big Picture?

Social media has changed drastically since its inception; the space is no longer reserved for social interaction, and it is now seen as a marketplace for inspiration, innovation, and purchasing. In the future, social platforms will continue to lean into trends, like AR, to make purchasing simple.

Select social apps may ultimately make a bold move and prioritize social shopping and discovery rather than content and life-sharing. With the recent news that Instagram is exploring the removal of vanity metrics, we are beginning to see a dropoff in superficial posting, as well as a rise in social media as a commerce-focused platform. This is just the beginning of social’s shift to a digital marketplace.

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