The Best Social Commerce/Social Shopping Platforms for South African E-commerce Merchants in 2021
An estimated $23,3 billion (R 356 billion) was spent on products via social networks last year, in the US alone.
So-called “social commerce” or “social shopping” is looking to be the next big thing in the e-commerce world.
Our e-commerce adoption here in South Africa may be lacking compared to a developed market like the US, but we’re fast catching up.
The pandemic and subsequent lockdown have supercharged SA’s e-commerce, leaving many businesses looking for the next biggest thing to try to get an edge in this burgeoning market.
This means South African e-commerce businesses will be looking at the best platforms to explore social commerce on, and we’re here to give you some pointers.
Whether you’re looking to start your e-commerce journey over social media or expanding from a solid online base, these are the top platforms we’d recommend looking into for your social commerce strategy.
What is Social Commerce?
Put simply, social commerce is the trend of allowing users to transact directly over social media platforms, instead of trying to funnel them to another place on the web like your site.
Why’s this desirable?
Well, any extra steps between somebody discovering your product, considering purchasing it and actually confirming the purchase are “drop-off points” where you’ll likely lose a percentage of customers.
Allowing them to transact the moment they see a product and decide they want it on social media offers an unparalleled level of convenience that can dramatically boost conversion rates and sales for many businesses.
Many social media platforms already act as huge drivers of product discovery, so why not let them also serve as direct sales points?
As the world’s largest, and most popular, social media platform Facebook is a great starting place for any social strategy.
This is especially true for social commerce.
For years Facebook has been leading the industry in social shopping features.
They have many more features on the platform to support and promote social shopping than any other service on this list, making them a great starting point for any business looking to get into social commerce.
Facebook’s Social Commerce Features:
- Facebook marketplace (an open user-run marketplace similar to a classifieds section)
- Facebook catalogues (a service where you can manually or automatically upload a catalogue of products from your site and run ads using it)
- Facebook store (a dedicated portal for retailers to sell their products on Facebook)
- Facebook messenger can also be used for social commerce or on-platform communication with customers
- Easy integration with most major website CMS’ like WordPress and Shopify
Who Should Consider Facebook for Social Commerce
Because of its sheer size and feature list, Facebook is a great starting point for almost any business looking to get into social commerce.
The limitations are mainly demographically based, i.e. not every possible demographic uses Facebook (mainly younger groups).
Especially if you’re already running ads on the platforms because their ad ecosystem integrates with the Facebook Shop and catalogues.
This lets you benefit from their rich targeting features as well as the advantages of social commerce.
Since becoming a subsidiary brand of Facebook, Instagram has also benefited from its investment into the world of social commerce.
Many of the features found on Facebook are also available on Instagram, often as part of the same campaigns.
Instagram is a powerful tool for visually-driven products because it’s an entirely visual platform.
If you’re able to showcase your product engagingly and create interest in your consumer, it can be an amazing tool for boosting sales over social platforms.
Imagine running an influencer marketing campaign showcasing a range of swimwear, and allowing your consumers to seamlessly purchase the product in-app from the influencer’s post showcasing it.
That’s the benefit of Instagram.
Instagram’s Social Commerce Features:
- Instagram mobile shopfronts (similar to Facebook catalogues, you can upload your product catalogue directly to an Instagram page)
- Shoppable posts (where users can buy a product directly through the post)
- Product “stickers” (which allow you to “tag” an image of a product with a link to a page where users can buy the product)
- Easy integration with most major website CMS’ like WordPress and Shopify
Who Should Consider Instagram for Social Commerce
Instagram is an amazing product discovery tool for visually-driven products, and the advent of social shopping means this makes it an equally amazing tool for creating sales on their platform.
The obvious limitations of the platform are that not all products are visually appealing, and not all products can be showcased visually.
The other thing to note is that the demographics tend to skew younger than other platforms, at least at the moment, so it may be less suitable for reaching older markets.
Still, for products that have a high visual appeal (and possibly a younger target demographic), Instagram has incredible potential as a social commerce platform.
It is worth noting up top, this one hasn’t actually launched yet. YouTube is still trialling social commerce with a select few brands ahead of a full release.
We’re including it more as something to look forward to and keep an eye on.
YouTube is the world’s largest video streaming service and has also recently begun making forays into the world of social commerce.
A Google property, YouTube is also the world’s second-largest search engine (right behind its parent company), which makes YouTube another incredible product discovery tool for consumers.
Google shopping ads are well known, so we won’t be covering them here, but YouTube has also very recently introduced YouTube shopping to allow transactions over the platform.
The service is incredibly new, and as such lacking in features, but has huge potential.
Think of it as a hybrid of the benefits of Instagram and Google shopping ads, and you can start to see the appeal.
YouTube Social Commerce Features:
Many of the features are still unknown because, as we mentioned, the service is still in its infancy.
This is the main feature we think will be the big draw for the platform, however:
- In-stream shopping where you can view and buy products as they’re featured in a video
Who Should Consider YouTube for Social Commerce
YouTube has the potential to be a huge deal as a social commerce platform, especially since brands who start investigating it now can get in on the “ground floor” as it launches.
We’d recommend everyone keeps an eye out.
YouTube as a platform has a universal appeal, and in terms of visually showcasing products, it doesn’t get any better than video online.
We hope this helped you get a good start on your social commerce journey.
It’s an incredibly exciting platform with a lot of potential for future growth, as the South African e-commerce space grows and evolves too.
Even small businesses can stand to gain from social commerce because it lets them bridge that crucial trust gap between the first and repeated purchases.
If you enjoyed this article or found it helpful, check out more e-commerce marketing content on the inSyte blog or listen to the inSyte Podcast.
This article was brought to you by Syte.
We’re a specialist e-commerce digital marketing agency dedicated to driving up your bottom line.
If you need any help setting up or running your business’ social commerce strategy, feel free to reach out with the form below or check out our case studies page to see what we’ve been able to do for our clients.