Social commerce: What TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat are planning

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The big social media players are gearing up for their assault on social commerce, but where are they and what are their plans?

Tired of their users turning to Amazon to buy what they’ve seen influencers – increasingly being referred to as creators – wearing or promoting, the social platforms realise there’s a significant amount of money to be made by keeping people within their feeds.

We’ve collated the latest information regarding the seven leading platforms to help you gear up for the next phase of online buying and selling, and plan for your own assault on the world of social commerce.

TikTok

Number one on our list for how it’s developing its platform for social commerce and the speed at which it is growing.

By the end of 2020, the TikTok app had been downloaded 2.6 billion times and it has more than 1 billion monthly active users worldwide.

It has been busy conducting trials and building partnerships in readiness for a significant push into e-commerce.

In the US, in December 2020, TikTok launched a shoppable livestream capability under a new partnership with Walmart.

During a one-hour livestream, customers were able to shop for Walmart fashion items featured by 10 TikTok creators, without having to leave the app.

In February 2021, it announced an enhanced partnership with e-commerce platform giant Shopify through Europe and the UK.

This allows merchants to create in-feed shoppable video ads for TikTok directly from within Shopify.

And in June, as part of its ongoing pilot project, TikTok announced it had partnered with cosmetics brand L’Oreal to allow shoppers in the UK and Ireland to buy NYX Professional Make-Up and Garnier products directly from the TikTok app.

TikTok is the social commerce front-runner and its algorithmic ability to showcase smaller creators alongside big brands make it the one to watch.

Instagram

Another platform with more than 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram is also busy testing new functionality.

In late June 2021, it began testing its in-app checkout capabilities in the UK. This will allow users to buy products without leaving the app by using Facebook Pay.

It’s very early days for the Facebook-owned platform – the test is being run with just 10 businesses, including women’s fashion brand Oh Polly and trainers store size?

The shopping feature has been in place on Instagram since 2018 but the ‘View Shop’ button on brand account pages ultimately leads to a visit to their website.

Instagram users can prepare for this to change in the near future.

The company doesn’t have a timeline for when other businesses will have access to Instagram Checkout as it says it wants to go through a test-and-learn phase.

With more than 500,000 active influencers on the platform and its Reels and IGTV features – which allows creators to showcase short-form and long-form videos respectively – Instagram certainly has everything in place to be a social commerce leader.

Bonus tip: While not directly linked to commerce, check out Instagram closet accounts. These are curated by users and detail the exact clothes worn by celebrities and influencers, and are becoming popular among younger audiences.

Facebook

Number one on our list for how it’s developing its platform for social commerce and the speed at which it is growing.

By the end of 2020, the TikTok app had been downloaded 2.6 billion times and it has more than 1 billion monthly active users worldwide.

It has been busy conducting trials and building partnerships in readiness for a significant push into e-commerce.

In the US, in December 2020, TikTok launched a shoppable livestream capability under a new partnership with Walmart.

During a one-hour livestream, customers were able to shop for Walmart fashion items featured by 10 TikTok creators, without having to leave the app.

In February 2021, it announced an enhanced partnership with e-commerce platform giant Shopify through Europe and the UK.

This allows merchants to create in-feed shoppable video ads for TikTok directly from within Shopify.

And in June, as part of its ongoing pilot project, TikTok announced it had partnered with cosmetics brand L’Oreal to allow shoppers in the UK and Ireland to buy NYX Professional Make-Up and Garnier products directly from the TikTok app.

TikTok is the social commerce front-runner and its algorithmic ability to showcase smaller creators alongside big brands make it the one to watch.

Snapchat

A quiet contender, Snapchat appears to be putting the majority of its eggs into the augmented reality basket.

Its popular Lenses functionality allows users to try on products, using AR technology, and the platform clearly sees this as its differentiator.

Tied to this is their purchase of Fit Analytics, the deal going through earlier this year. Fit Analytics’ main product is Fitfinder which helps customers choose the right size when purchasing online.

Snapchat also bought Screenshop, which allows users to scan their friend’s clothes or upload a photo of a product, and be presented with a host of recommendations, from hundreds of brands, based on the image.

The platform has described it as having a ‘personal shopper on your phone’.

They have also acquired Vertebrae, which helps brands create digital 3D versions of their products.

Only recently, Snapchat announced a partnership with luxury site Verishop to bring a fashion and beauty catalogue to the platform. Products can be tried on through AR and then bought directly from feeds.

Fair play to Snapchat. They haven’t got the numbers or influencers of Instagram or TikTok and so are creating a different shopping experience.

It’s a fantastic example of having a clear proposition to consumers in a crowded market.

Just as with TikTok, Shopify merchants are able to create ads on Snapchat without leaving the Shopify system.

Pinterest

Pinterest is putting its stake in the ground as the platform for inspiration i.e. the place to get new ideas.

Product pins can be created to highlight that they are shoppable and lead users to merchants’ websites.

They feature up-to-date prices, availability and product title and description from a brand’s website. Businesses need to sign up to the Pinterest merchant list to access this feature.

An enhanced partnership with Shopify has made this process much easier to complete.

Last year Pinterest added augmented reality functionality for make-up products and it has introduced a shopping list which brings all product pins together for users to review.

Twitter

In March this year, Twitter confirmed the testing of a new way to display tweets which link to product pages, including a ‘Shop’ button which takes users to the brand’s website.

These tweets integrate product details so we’re seeing early signs of the platform’s advance into e-commerce.

Twitter realises it has to get serious about social commerce, but it’s not clear why brands would use the platform over others.

Twitter’s revenue product lead Bruce Falck said: “On e-commerce, we get a lot of questions around where we’re at and what the plans are, and why we’re taking so long.”

Youtube

In March this year, Twitter confirmed the testing of a new way to display tweets which link to product pages, including a ‘Shop’ button which takes users to the brand’s website.

These tweets integrate product details so we’re seeing early signs of the platform’s advance into e-commerce.

Twitter realises it has to get serious about social commerce, but it’s not clear why brands would use the platform over others.

Twitter’s revenue product lead Bruce Falck said: “On e-commerce, we get a lot of questions around where we’re at and what the plans are, and why we’re taking so long.”

Summary

Social commerce is beginning to appear, like an unstoppable army, on the brow of the hill.

All major players are testing new features to get a feel for how consumers outside of south-east Asia will react.

The market is already huge in China but online buying habits in the UK and the western world are much different, and no platform appears to be sure of the best approach.

Let battle commence.

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