What do you get when you put together the best of e-commerce and social media?

Social commerce, not a very popular term, but an estimated $89.4 Billion global market that continues to grow fast and is estimated to reach $604.5 Billion by 2027.

We know, the current social commerce market size is almost nothing compared to the global e-commerce size that’s estimated at $3.9 trillion in 2020. Still, it a pretty big market that any merchant can gain profits from.

South Africa currently has the 37th biggest e-commerce market in the word with an estimate revenue of $3 billion in 2019. Clearly we love to buy online.

Our concern though is that so many South African businesses are not selling online because of all the friction associated with e-commerce.

  • Getting an e-commerce website.
  • Learning to manage it.
  • Setting up an online payment system, etc.

Social commerce solves all these problems, allowing you to conduct your business and complete sales from your favorite social media platforms.

What is social commerce?

Social commerce is the process of selling and buying items directly on social media sites or platforms. The entire shopping experience — from product discovery to payments and check out takes place on a social media platform.

With social commerce, you can browse and compare products on Facebook and complete the purchase without leaving Facebook to go make payments on the company’s site.

You can see a cool summer vest on your Instagram feed, conclude you want it, click “shop now” and complete the purchase on the Application.

Social commerce uses advanced chatbot checkouts and autofill for payment and delivery details. Meaning it takes just a few clicks to complete a purchase.

This is a far easier and cost effective opportunity that’s available to every business owner. Doing business right on the social platforms that you’re already familiar with and that your audience loves to use daily.

Social commerce vs. e-commerce vs. social selling

Social commerce is different from both e-commerce and social selling. The way we see it, it actually the combination of the two.

E-commerce refers to a shopping experience through a website such as takealot.com, jumia.co.za, amazon.com or a branded mobile application.

Social selling refers to cultivating relationships on social media in order to build your sales prospect list. This includes running social media Adverts that redirect prospects to webstore like shopify to complete the purchase.

Social commerce allows social media users to start and complete their shopping experience within the social media network they using at the moment. For example, they see your Ad on their news feed, they hit buy now. They go on to make the payment within the social media platform and also complete their delivery details within the platform.

Why social commerce?

There are multiple benefits and reasons for why you should use social commerce.

1. Your target market is already on social media

You no doubt already have a business account on multiple social media networks, and you most likely run Ads to attract more customers. So you already have a base and following on social media.

Social commerce makes things easier for both you and your customers. They can quickly complete a sale while still enjoying the social experience of the current platform and quickly get back to scrolling their news feeds.

It’s an easier way for people to complete the purchase of products they want and need.

2. Social shopping experience

Social commerce makes the shopping experience social, as it should be. Unlike with e-commerce, your customers can consult with friends right there on the platform, read comments and reviews from other users and interact directly with your brand via messenger if they like.

3. Social commerce removes friction

Social commerce makes online shopping easy and simple. It’s the social platform your audience already loves, they are there, the product they want is there, they don’t need to leave the platform. All they have to do is hit buy now and checkout.

Social commerce is about making it easy for users to complete an online purchase. It removes the potential for confusion often caused by redirecting to a website and thus reduce abandonment rate which for e-commerce are as high as 77%.

4. Easy to set up compared to e-commerce

Social commerce is perfect for solopreneurs and not so tech savvy business owners who don’t have a budget to get an e-commerce website which can cost anywhere from $20 000 (R 300 000) to $210 000 (R 3000000) a year.

We know, we almost reconsidered our own web design prices after seeing this.

But this is real, e-commerce websites are expensive and not easy to manage. With social commerce you need no coding skills, you need not to learn website management. You just drag and drop a couple of things to build your store, add you catalogue, details and prices and you’re good to do business.

5. Best way to reach millennials and Gen Z.

Social commerce is more like a modern mall. Millennials and Gen Z ( 18 to 40 years) make up the majority group of social media users. If your target market fits this demographic group, they’re already online and are waiting to shop without leaving their favorite social media network.

6. Harness the power of social targeting

Major social media networks already have a lot of consumer data. You can run Advertisements targeting very specific users with advanced targeting offered by social networks.

Suppose you’re selling baby clothes. You can run Advertisement campaigns targeting a young cool mom who just had her first baby, who lives in Durban, is a teacher at Durban Girls high and recently made a purchase on Facebook.

That how specific your targeting can get. Getting a specific product in front of the right person, at the right time, who’s ready to buy.

What are the main social commerce platforms?

According to buffer currently there are 3 social media platforms offer a complete social media shopping experience. They are, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

1. Facebook

In addition to buying Ads on Facebook and having the most advanced targeting capabilities available today, Facebook is allowing businesses to turn their Facebook pages into store fronts.

Businesses can now create “shop now” stores on their Facebook pages by using in App templates. All you have to do is choose products to feature, customize fonts, images and colors to suit your brand.

Or, you can import an existing catalogue of products from your website if you already have one. If not, no worries, create one from scratch.

With Facebook shops, here’s what you can do.

  • Upload products and product details;
  • Curate and customize your shop’s product catalog;
  • Make sales directly from your Page;
  • Manage your orders;
  • Run Facebook Ads to promote your products;
  • Get customer insights.

Customers are able to access your Facebook store from anywhere of Facebook. They can access it from your Facebook Page, Instagram profile, Instagram Shopping Ads, Facebook and Instagram stories and posts.

At check out, a customer has got a few options. To complete their purchase on Facebook, to message your business or go to your business website to complete their purchase.

Facebook added a nice feature where you can create a test shop to see if this works for you. Here you can experiment with your customer experience, add your products, and manage orders. This is great place for you to start, test the water before you jump in.

2. Instagram

According to Facebook, about 70% of shopping  enthusiasts turn to Instagram for product discovery. Because of this, Instagram introduced Instagram shops.

Instagram shopping allows users to tap on images and stories to view products featured on it and buy it right on the App.

Because Instagram is owned by Facebook, you need to have your Facebook store/shop set up first. This is because your Instagram Shop will be getting data from your Facebook catalog.

Once your Facebook shop is set up and ready, setting up your Instagram shop takes only a few more steps. And ohh, you’ll want to make sure your Instagram account is a business account that’s connected to your Facebook business account.

Instagram business accounts can create a customized store front to suit your brand just like with Facebook. Each product gets its own page, featuring product detail, pricing, and related branded media.

Instagram social commerce is now available to over 70 countries, including South Africa, but not all business are eligible to use it. Only eligible businesses and creators have the option to let customers complete the purchase on Instagram using Facebook Pay. Those that aren’t eligible for Insta social commerce have the option to let customers complete the purchase off-site.

It worth mentioning that Instagram social commerce is only available to businesses that are selling physical products, not services.

3. Pinterest

Back in 2015 Pinterest introduced buyable pins which at the time were about 30 million of them on the entire site. 3 months later there were over 60 million available buyable pins on the site.

Buyable pins are different from promoted pins.

Promoted Pins are basically Pinterest Ads that allow businesses to guarantee that users see their pins. While buyable pins allow users to complete a product purchase from a pin without leaving Pinterest.

According to gs.statcounter.com 34.12% of the South African population is using Pinterest, that’s more than 20 million South African citizens. And, 89% of them are there looking for shopping inspiration.

Pinterest is a good platform to get your business and products discovered. Start with opening a business account and start pinning your products for discovery today.

Getting started with social commerce

1. List your best low cost items

Some people are still getting used to the idea of completing a sale on social media so they might be skeptical about making a big purchase. That is why we recommend you start with listing your best low cost items.

By starting with your best products you’re selling the items you already know appeal to a wide audience and it resonates with your target market. It even better if that product is not expensive as you’re reducing friction for shoppers. They won’t be eager to weigh the pros and cons like they would with a major purchase.

Be strategic in your approach as you’re starting out with social commerce and add a limited catalog just to experiment.  

It worth mentioning that different categories perform well than others when it comes to selling on social media. According to a report by emarketer.com the categories that perform best on social commerce are apparel, luxury goods, beauty, and home decor.

2. Partner with influencers

Influencers can be very powerful when it comes to social commerce. 87% of people say that influencers have inspired them to make a purchase on social media, 87%!

Influencers will help you quickly spread the word about your social media store and the awesome products you’re selling. Many of their new features allow people to share your products on your behalf and still tie into the frictionless buying experience of a buyable Pin or Instagram shopping.

3. Run social media Ads

One of the quickest ways to get customers for your social commerce is to run paid social media Ad campaigns. All the 3 platforms that offer social commerce can help you target any audience you want. You can target by location, age, work, income and so much more.

If your social commerce is going to be a success, you have to let as many social media users know about your business as you possibly can. And one of the ways to that is by running paid social media advertisements.

4. Measure progress

The goal with social commerce is to make sales within social media networks. There are a number of ways you can do this. You can publish great content, use influencers and run advertising campaigns. At the end you want sales.

Social commerce is a business, and like every other business you need to have a strategy in place, goals and some sort of a measurement system.

To see if social commerce is good investment for your business you’ll have to constantly measure how far or close you are to reaching your goals and make necessary adjustments to your approach.

There are multiple ways you can measure your success on social.

  • You can look at brand engagements
  • number of sales made
  • Ads performance
  • Influencer campaign performance


Social commerce is still a trend in the making. The majority of people are not yet completely sold on the idea of completing a purchase and checking out on social media.

It seems to be a slow moving online shopping evolution, not every is on board YET. Nonetheless, it is still a viable option brands can take as they attempt to reach more people, increase brand awareness and make more sales.  

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