CX Insights

Social: The Next Big Thing in Ecommerce

5 min read

For ecommerce sites, social channels have not always been seen as a meaningful source of direct traffic and sales. Just as recently as 2013, social channels were only responsible for 1.55% of all traffic to the top ecommerce sites on the web and are more commonly regarded as a means of promoting products but not necessarily driving conversions and sales.

However, this could all be set to change. Ecommerce is evolving to allow brands to generate awareness, spark interest and facilitate purchases directly through social channels. This is known as social commerce and is an approach that is fast being adopted by many big brands.

Social commerce itself takes many different forms and all have a different impact on driving conversions and sales for online stores. Below, we outline the most common types of social commerce and which brands are already leveraging the opportunity.

Peer-to-peer Marketplaces

A peer-to-peer marketplace connects buyers and sellers so that both individuals benefit from the transaction. These sites thrive on user participation and engagement. Some big players include: AirBnB (travel P2P marketplace), Olx, Craigslist and Uber (work and service P2P marketplace), eBay (ecommerce P2P marketplace), Bitcoin (money P2P marketplace), Betfair (gambling P2P marketplace) and many more.

Group Buying Platforms

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Group buying, also known as collective buying, offers products and services at significantly reduced prices on the condition that a minimum number of buyers would make the purchase. Some examples include, Groupon, LivingSocial and Plum district.

Peer Recommendations

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Peer Recommendations are an integral component of what makes social commerce so powerful. They include aggregated product reviews, product recommendations, and rewards in exchange for social sharing their products. A common example of this can be found on Amazon. Once you have shown interest in a certain product by adding it to your cart, through casual browsing or even if you’ve completed the purchase, the site begins to recommend similar or complimentary products. The site will mention things like “Users who bought this also bought this”. At the bottom of each product there is a section for ratings and customer testimonials. Yelp is another great example of a peer recommendation platform that aids social commerce.

User-Curated Shopping

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Curated content is a concept that is growing in popularity across a range of industries from music platforms like Spotify/Apple Music to eMagazines to Netflix. Personalized experiences are highly valued by consumers and User-Curated Shopping is no different. Sites like Fancy, Lyst and AhaLife all attempt to provide a unique shopping experience by displaying items that the user will love, curated to them based on their tastes. This allows users to shop through and have access to multiple ecommerce stores from one central starting point.

Participatory Commerce

Participation in ecommerce has been an amazing development over the past few years and has actually facilitated the creation of many products by users supporting and funding them directly. This is also known as crowdfunding or crowdsourcing and it allows users to become directly involved through voting, funding and sometimes even collaboratively designing products. Some common examples are  Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and Threadless.

Social Shopping + Social Network Driven Sales


Social Shopping is essentially the means by which a platform attempts to replicate the real world shopping experience but online. This is achieved through the availability of chats, forums and commenting features to allow a shopper to receive guidance and opinions.

Social network driven sales involves two things: the purchases made from shops through referrals on social media and purchases made directly on the social media site itself. This is an increasingly popular concept that has been in the works for some time now.

Facebook & Social Commerce 

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Facebook has played around with the idea of connecting commerce and social media for a while. If you recall, in 2012 Facebook launched their Gifts Platform to allow users to give physical and digital presents to their friends right on their social network. The following year they dropped the idea of selling physical items for digital codes to access gift cards, UBER vouchers, digital music etc; alongside this, they also launched the Facebook Gift card. In 2014 Facebook had decided to ditch the entire idea of Facebook Gifts which some people call “a clumsy stab in dark of ecommerce”. Instead, they have shifted their focus to their “buy button”, which allows users to buy products and services from businesses directly on Facebook. The button allows users to buy products without ever having to leave the site. Granted that the user has given their data to Facebook already, the site can provide curated Facebook Ads for the user to see. If the products placed are accurate and enticing then it is could make conversions a little easier.

Pinterest & Social Commerce 


Pinterest is also another social media network that has found its calling in social commerce. As you may know Pinterest is regarded as a primarily visual medium in which users pin and post images of things they like. The platform is particularly popular for showcasing fashion and clothing; users pin their favourite outfits, brands and styles and are even linked back to the seller’s site. This has become a major opportunity for Pinterest to also incorporate a buy button on pins, or as they call them “buyable pins”. This allows users to buy products they love right on Pinterest without having to go to other external sites. This also leads to a more integrated experience combining elements of social commerce and ecommerce. You can learn more here or watch the video.

The Future of Social Commerce:

Traditional ecommerce has allowed many brands to thrive and succeed over the years but social commerce is bound for success as it provides a streamlined online shopping experience. Social Commerce is simply taking the notions of convenience, user interest and social engagement to provide an optimal user experience which can directly drives sales for ecommerce businesses.

[bctt tweet=”#SocialCommerce Takes Convenience, User Interest and Social Engagement to Provide an Optimal #UX”]

It will be interesting in the coming months to measure the success and conversions of platforms such as Facebook’s Buy Button and Pinterest’s Buyable Pins. It will also be interesting to see how other social media networks could potentially adopt social commerce tactics. Social media and ecommerce are both incredibly influential and with the merging of the two, current means of shopping could become disrupted by a newer and more innovative approach.

What social channels are you currently using? Which have you found to be most successful? Comment below or tweet us @usabilla


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Sudar Ganes
As an experienced researcher in the fields of marketing, sociology and UX, he is intrigued by the ways that users think and interact. Translating these insights ultimately helps in better product development and marketing.