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Platforms catch social commerce fever, with varying degrees of success

Trendspotting: Commerce has become a priority for social platforms—yet it’s clear that some have more sophisticated shopping features than others. When it comes to innovation, Meta’s Instagram and Facebook, and Gen Z favorite TikTok are leading the way for now, but platforms like Pinterest and Twitter are trying their best to prove their social commerce bona fides.

Compare and contrast: Instagram and Facebook lead the pack in features like in-app checkout, but TikTok and Pinterest are leveraging their strength in product discovery to deliver value to retailers.

Key takeaways:

  • While many platforms offer some form of shoppable content, only Facebook and Instagram currently have in-app checkout options. Lacking native checkout abilities is not necessarily a deal breaker for consumers—56% of US shoppers who made a purchase through social media did so via links to retailers’ websites, according to a survey from Bizrate Insights—but the more seamless the process is, the more likely shoppers are to see the transaction through to the end.
  • Live shopping is increasingly being used as an entry point to social commerce. Twitter has started testing a livestream shopping feature, while Pinterest recently launched Pinterest TV, which the company describes as “a series of live, original, and shoppable episodes featuring creators right on Pinterest.”

A caveat: While 48% of US social media users reported making a purchase via social media in the past year, per our "US Digital Trust Survey 2021," social commerce hasn’t quite become mainstream. We forecast sales in the US will reach $36.62 billion this year, a mere one-tenth the size of China’s social commerce market.

Still, brands are enthusiastic about the prospect of social commerce: A study by The Harris Poll and Sprout Social found that 73% of businesses are currently selling via social media, with that number expected to rise to 79% in the next three years.

Looking ahead: Even though social commerce has not yet become standard behavior, it is still an incredibly valuable tool for brands.

  • By looking to see which products people are interacting with or adding to their carts, brands can gauge shopper interest and identify opportunities for dynamic retargeting. Depending on the tools available to them, brands can also remind users about items left in their carts, or offer promotions to secure the conversion.