The State of Social Commerce

4 Min Read
Abena Gyebi

It’s official—social media has caught up to ecommerce.

For the past few years, brands and retailers have been searching for effective ways to leverage their social media followings on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest into real online revenue. To date, they’ve mostly relied on well placed URL to a product page, in the absence of in-app commerce functionality.  And while there have been several underwhelming attempts in the past (Facebook Card and Gifts app, for example), this most recent batch of technological enhancements seems to be more promising.

Twitter—Product Pages


In addition to its first commerce product, a “Buy Button” that launched last fall, Twitter just announced that it has new functionality that will “make it easier to discover products and places”—Product Pages.

The Pros:
While the Buy Button was ideal for impulse purchases, Product Pages provide more valuable info about what’s being sold, which has the potential to attract the more careful buyers, too.

The Cons:
The initial rollout only allows a select group of “curators” to create collections around different themes. Everyone else has to wait out the test run.

Pinterest—”Buy It” Button

Pinterest_buybuttonWhile brands linking perfectly photographed Pinterest pins to their commerce sites for checkout is nothing new, redirecting users to a new browser window creates unwanted friction in the purchase process. Earlier this month, Shopify announced that it would soon reveal new technology that would allow Pinterest users to make purchases directly through the Pinterest app via a “buyable pin.” Well-known retailers like Macy’s, Nordstrom, Cole Haan, Neiman Marcus, and Michaels, as well as thousands of Shopify stores are already on board.

The Pros:
Mobile users, especially app users, have an easier time getting started on their DIY projects.

The Cons:
It’s only for Shopify merchants—for now.

Facebook—Buy Button

In response to Pinterest, rumor has it Facebook is introducing a new “Buy” button that shows up in Facebook Page Posts and Promoted Post ads run by Shopify merchants. Clicking on the button initiates checkout within the Facebook News Feed, reducing the likelihood of friction in the purchase process.

The Pros:
Problem solved—it allows users to make immediate purchases without leaving Facebook, (…so long as their payment info is on file with Facebook. If not, they’re prompted to add it.)

The Cons:
Like Pinterest, it’s only for Shopify merchants for now.

Instagram—Sponsored Ad Links


Although Instagram’s photo sharing platform is perfect for fashion and beauty brands to showcase their products and reach new customers, the app has not necessarily been the most user-friendly platform for ecommerce—until now. Currently, links posted in Instagram captions are not clickable; the user has to copy and paste the URL in their browser to visit the link, which takes them away from the app and slows the shopping experience.

But Instagram has unveiled new Ad capabilities that will allow merchants to link users to product pages from ads and sponsored posts. The capability was first introduced in March, when Instagram start showing clickable links in its new multi-photo carousel ads that can tell a story by letting you swipe through four branded images in sequence.

The Pros:
From a marketer’s perspective, it’s an opportunity (finally!) to demonstrate efficacy and metrics on a platform that’s notoriously difficult for showing ROI (because it’s traditionally been for photo-browsing, not web-browsing). From a user’s perspective, it’s something, I guess.

The Cons:
Since Instagram is primarily a mobile experience (even more so than the other social media platforms), a solution that still takes out outside the app for purchase doesn’t yet do enough to improve the user experience.

Also, so far it’s just for sponsored posts. Merchants still have to lean on other solutions for making their regular Instagram photos shoppable—Like2Buy (used by Nylon Magazine and Nordstrom), a platform that uses a link to redirect to a shoppable photo gallery; and creating a custom page on their own commerce site, like Insta-Stace (by Alica and Olivia); are just a couple of options.


Images via: Twitter, recodeTech, the DigitalDiver, and Shopify


Abena Gyebi is Marketing Manager at Corra, a New York, Los Angeles and London based digital agency creating unified commerce experiences for fashion, lifestyle and beauty. With a team of 100+ ecommerce strategy, design and technology professionals, Corra delivers rich shopping and buying experiences across all channels and devices. Corra is trusted by retailers of all sizes to implement and support Magento Enterprise, Demandware and hybris platforms.

Abena Gyebi

Corra is a global agency that builds the world’s fastest and most flexible digital storefronts for growing brands. We’re leaders in headless and composable commerce development, backed by gold-standard post-launch support. Through technical expertise, creative vision, and collaborative strategy, we help clients digitally transform to meet the evolving needs of their customers, adding value from day one. With headquarters in New York and hubs in 12 cities across three continents, Corra is uniquely positioned to support clients around the world and around the clock.

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