The online shopping experience has changed. Customers no longer discover a product and visit a retailer's website to purchase. Social media is bridging the gap between both actions, capitalizing on the two hours and 27 minutes per day the average user (all 4.62 billion of them) spends on social media.
Social networks have evolved from photo-sharing sites to purchasing platforms. Over a quarter of people have used social media to find products to buy. Another 38% have used a social media app to make a purchase.
Forecasts suggest that social commerce sales will reach $2.9 trillion by 2026—hence why 49% of brands we surveyed plan to increase their social commerce investment this year.
But to take advantage of social commerce, you need a platform to facilitate it. This guide outlines the 10 biggest social commerce platforms, with trends and best practices to help you turn them into new revenue streams for your ecommerce business.
Table of Contents
- What’s a social commerce platform?
- What are the benefits of tapping into social commerce?
- Top 10 social commerce platforms
What’s a social commerce platform?
A social commerce platform allows social media users to buy products from brands without leaving the app, website, or dashboard.
Popular examples include Instagram and Facebook. Both platforms allow brands to upload their product catalog, tag items in social media content, and create a virtual storefront. Social media users can find, browse, and buy items without leaving the app.
Take Allbirds, for example. The footwear retailer uses Facebook and Instagram shops to reach more than 700,000 combined followers across both social commerce platforms.
What are the benefits of tapping into social commerce?
Social commerce is big business in the US. It will account for 5.2% of all ecommerce transactions by 2025.
Yet social commerce doesn’t just give brands the ability to reach shoppers in the same market. With a 58.4% global penetration rate, many international users use social commerce platforms to interact with brands—like South East Asia, where $1 out of every $5 spent online is facilitated through social media, or China, which is home to the most digital buyers in the world.
Global reach aside, let’s take a look at five other actions that influence DTC brands’ decisions to use social commerce.
- Slot within existing sales channels. Research shows that 30% of internet users in the US already make purchases directly within social platforms.
- Publish content that convinces people to buy. For 37% of social shoppers, that’s deals and discounts. And you don’t need a customers’ most valuable digital currency—their email address—to send them. It’s why 71% of people say social media has inspired them to shop even when they weren’t actively looking to do so.
- Remove pre-purchase friction. Some 78% of social media users say they like the option of clicking products they’ve seen on social media and buying them there and then. Social media storefronts take advantage of this, allowing consumers to see, browse, and purchase products without leaving the app.
- Host livestreams. More than half of US consumers have already made a purchase on either a social or livestream video platform. Tap into social media livestreams and nudge viewers to buy the products on show.
- Capture mobile shoppers. Nine in 10 social media users access their favorite platforms using a smartphone. Use mobile commerce to drive more revenue through social media.
The 10 top social commerce platforms
Instagram is one of the largest social media platforms in the world. More than one-third of global social network users now use the app to share photos and videos, follow friends, and buy products. Its user base in the US alone will reach 128.3 million in 2022.
For our business and target demographic, Instagram has the best-fit audience in terms of age, political leanings, and location. Especially for our UGC partners and incentives, we wouldn’t be able to foster the same engagement using Facebook, for example, for our niche.”
—Shawn Munoz, Brand Manager of Pure Relief
Once a platform to share photos with friends, Instagram has led the way in turning social media networks into shopping channels. The introduction of Shops, livestreaming, and influencer collaboration features now mean the vast majority (92%) of online retailers use the platform as part of their social commerce strategy, beating Facebook, Pinterest, and TikTok.
"With its in-app shopping capabilities, Shopify businesses would be wise to capitalize on Instagram as a marketing tool and customer management platform.”
—Bill Glaser, CEO of Outstanding Foods
Here’s how to use Instagram’s social commerce tools to make more money.
- Create an Instagram Shop. An Instagram Shop gives followers the ability to browse your product catalog without leaving the app. Pair your Shopify store with Instagram. Save time manually uploading your product catalog and offer a smooth shopping experience that gives followers the ability to complete their purchase without leaving Instagram.
- Host Instagram Lives: More than 100 million people watch these native livestreams every day, with 13% of viewers preferring Instagram Live over other social media platforms. DTC beauty brand Glamnetic is one retailer taking advantage of Instagram Live. It hosts live shopping events through the app, which give its customers a chance to connect with the founder and purchase products on show.
- Tag products in organic content: When users click the View Products button, they’ll see items from your Instagram storefront. They can easily click through to view more information. More than 500 million people watch Instagram Stories daily. Use the product tag sticker to turn them into paying customers, like this example from Rebecca Minkoff.
Facebook is the most popular social media network, with 2.9 billion monthly active users. What started off as a way for college students to connect with each other online is now a purchasing powerhouse.
More than a third of Facebook users will purchase an item through the social media platform in 2022, with 31% saying they’d be most likely to purchase through the platform over others (including Instagram and TikTok).
Here’s how to position your brand at the forefront and drive sales through Facebook commerce.
- Open a Facebook Shop. People visiting your page see a Shop tab—a smaller, native version of your online store for followers to buy products within the Facebook platform. Speed up the process by syncing your Shopify store with Facebook. Upload your product catalog to share each item’s photos, availability, and price with Facebook users. The result is native product listings, like this one from Good American.
- Sell via Facebook Marketplace: Selling to local customers? Whether you’re hosting pop-up shops or operating permanent brick-and-mortar stores alongside your website, list products on Facebook Marketplace. The social commerce feature is used by 562 million people to find products and services from local businesses.
- Enable Facebook Pay: Modern shoppers demand choice—9% will abandon an online shopping cart if the retailer doesn’t offer their preferred payment method. For some shoppers, that includes Facebook Pay (also known as Meta Pay). The payment gateway stores a customer’s credit card information and allows retailers to monetize customer support requests through Facebook Messenger. Customers can conveniently pay for new purchases throughout the conversation—no app switching necessary.
Boasting 433 million monthly active users, Pinterest is a social commerce platform that gives users the ability to “pin” items to a virtual board. But there’s more to it than creating mood boards—some 50% of Pinterest users actively use the platform to buy. Nine in 10 use content shared inside the app to inspire future purchases.
Feasting at Home’s founder, Sylvia Fountaine, is one business owner capitalizing on Pinterest’s social commerce potential: “I think that any retailer who relies on visual storytelling can benefit from Pinterest, as the products become aspirational for shoppers who pin your posts to their boards. There is simply better curation here than on Instagram, which is pivoting to social commerce but feels slow and clunky.
“Pinterest feels more like a gallery that can be shared, which allows us to feature multiple products on curated boards. Niching down at its finest!”
- Use Shopify to offer in-app checkout: Studies show that users display 70% greater shopping intent on product pins versus standalone product photography shots. Install the Pinterest Shopify app and upload your product catalog. The app will automatically turn product listings into pins so users can easily save products to their own virtual board.
- Join the Verified Merchant Program: Businesses using Pinterest can join the free Verified Merchant Program. Those accepted into the network get a verified merchant badge on their profile and a Shop tab (which works similarly to Facebook and Instagram Shops). They can also showcase brand values and connected communities on their Pinterest profile. According to our research, consumers are four times more likely to purchase from a company with strong brand values.
- Encourage users to pin items to a Shopping List: Not only are users over seven times more likely to purchase products they’ve saved, but Pinterest reports that people who visit the social commerce platform weekly outspent non-pinners by two times every month. Encourage pinners to pin items to their Shopping List. Pinterest automatically shares deals and discounts with those whose Shopping List you’re on. If an item saved drops in price, they’ll get a notification that nudges users to buy the product they’ve favorited.
Like many other social commerce platforms we’ve shared so far, Snapchat’s history doesn’t involve shopping. It was created in 2011 as a way for users to share time-sensitive photos and videos, known as “snaps,” that are deleted within a few seconds.
As more ecommerce brands began to use Snapchat to engage with customers, the platform developed its own social commerce features to take advantage. Its 347 million users reportedly have over $4.4 trillion in spending power. Here’s how to claim your share.
- Create a branded filter: Filters are graphic designs that overlay a user’s photo or video. Create your own using the Snapchat filter creator. You’ll be charged based on the time frame and location you want the Snapchat filter to be active. Get more mileage from your branded filter with a Snapchat business account. You can manage filters across various locations, target users by age, and use smart filters to display dynamic text.
- Invest in AR lenses: Snapchat’s core differentiator from other social commerce platforms is its use of augmented reality (AR). It’s a feature that convinces people to buy: Some 92% of Gen Z audiences want to use AR for shopping. Create immersive social shopping experiences with a custom Snapchat AR lense. American Eagle, for example, used AR technology to allow Snapchat users to virtually try on a pair of jeans.
- Run shoppable Snapchat Ads: Guarantee a spot in your target audience’s Snapchat feed with Shoppable Ads. Use the Snapchat Ads app to run brand awareness ads (which showcase up to 20 products to Snapchat users who fit your target market) and dynamic shopping ads (whichre-engage people who’ve already visited your website, reminding them of products they were interested in but haven’t yet purchased).
Augmented reality is changing the way we shop, play, and learn, and transforming how businesses tell their stories and sell their products.”
—Jeremi Gorman, chief business officer at Snap
Since bursting onto the social media scene in 2016, TikTok has taken the digital world by storm. It has amassed almost 85 million users, spending 45 minutes per day on the platform and spending $50.4 million every year.
Take it from Danielle Peplinski, co-founder of Glow Fashion Boutique, who says, “Since 2021, TikTok has been the best social commerce platform for our business. Prior to TikTok, we used Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, and worked with two agencies on ad placement, with very limited sales conversions. With a few viral videos we were able to grow our community significantly in a year.
“With one viral video related to our business concept of creating a capsule wardrobe in April of 2021, we had our first ever $20,000 month. As a small business in the competitive apparel space, that was exciting and helped us see the potential, for the first time, in social commerce.”
- Tag items from your TikTok Shop: Sync your Shopify store with TikTok to create shoppable posts from social media content. Upload your product catalog and give viewers a direct way to purchase products inside the app.
- Host TikTok livestreams: TikTok turns livestreams into a profitable shopping channel for DTC brands. Big-box retailers like Walmart have already piloted the social commerce feature. Its Holiday Shop-Along Spectacular was streamed to its TikTok profile, featuring pop-up product tags that shoppers can add items to their online cart and purchase within the app.
- Partner with creators: TikTok changed the influencer marketing industry by drawing attention away from famous influencers, giving smaller creators the opportunity to produce content for brands (at a fraction of the cost). Find creators whose audiences overlap with your own through the TikTok Creator Marketplace. As part of your partnerships, include the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag alongside any branded hashtags. You’ll scale your social media content production while reaching new audiences.
TikTok can give your business great exposure and engagement because most users spend time browsing this platform because it contains short videos that can be both interesting and informative, which is why it is the best platform to make the most of your marketing campaign.”
—Jean Will, co-founder of NiaWigs
Twitter is a news source for 78% of Americans. But trending stories aside, the platform has 229 million global monetizable daily active users, making it a social commerce platform worthy of adding to your business.
The network is experimenting with social commerce features to turn its users into customers—most of which are in beta testing. That includes:
- Professional profiles. Brands with this account type get access to Twitter Spotlight, shoppable product pins, and enriched data on their profile page.
- Super follows. This subscription-style feature gives “super followers” exclusive content—such as deals, coupons, and discounts—in exchange for a monthly fee. Test whether it’s a viable channel to host customer loyalty programs and earn recurring revenue.
Twitch is a livestreaming platform largely used by gaming creators. Its user base’s loyalty to the platform is impressive: In the first quarter of 2022, Twitch users watched 6.13 billion hours of live video—an increase from 5.7 billion hours the quarter before.
Now owned by Amazon, Twitch is a social commerce platform that is still worth experimenting with … even if you don’t sell through the marketplace or sell gaming products.
- Involve shoppers in product development: Modern consumers want to connect with the brands they’re buying from. Involve them in the product development experience through Twitch livestreams. Lexus, for example, partnered with a Twitch creator to create a “show car” the brand would use to make a statement at tradeshows.
- Partner with influencers: Capture a streamer’s existing loyal fan base through sponsored livestreams. For example, ELF Cosmetics sponsored a streamer who used its products to turn themselves into a gaming character.
- Create a !SHOP demand: Instead of following up with commenters post-event, or hiring someone to do it for you, use Twitch Commands to give real-time answers to viewers’ questions mid-stream. For example, if you’re streaming the application of your candle-making kits, use an app like Streamlabs to automatically share a link to your product page when a viewer comments “!CANDLE.”
TaggShop differs from the other platforms we’ve listed here. It isn’t a social media network, per se. It’s a technology that turns user-generated social media content into shoppable content.
- Embed TaggShop on your ecommerce site.Two-thirds of people trust user-generated content over traditional influencer endorsements. Round-up yours into one Taggshop lookbook and embed it on your website to satisfy pre-purchase sales objections.
- Encourage reviews and ratings. The downside to some in-app social storefronts is that customer reviews are often missing. Taggshop acts as a customer review platform so you can show words from happy customers alongside shoppable social content.
- Track influencer ROI.Almost of all marketers say ROI from influencer marketing is better than other channels. Benchmark your own campaigns against other marketing strategies with a custom Taggshop link for each influencer. The platform will automatically track revenue directly attributed to each creator.
Looking to expand into international markets? WeChat should be high on your priority list, especially if you’re targeting Chinese consumers. The country is home to roughly 20% of the world’s total internet users. Its most popular app, WeChat, is deeply integrated into the everyday experiences of its users.
WeChat was voted the favorite platform for 11.4% of global social media users, with over 1.2 billion monthly active users—beating TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook Messenger.
Here’s how to sell on WeChat and capture international shoppers.
- Open a WeChat store. Create a WeChat Official Account and pay the $99 verification fee. Once your application has been approved, use a store provider like WalktheChat (which pairs with Shopify) to launch your WeChat store.
- Ask users to add items to their Good Product Circle. In an attempt to make social commerce even more social, WeChat introduced its Good Product Circle. The feature allows users to recommend products to friends and access their network’s recommendation list—a model ripe for building an in-app word-of-mouth marketing program.
- Capitalize on Chinese shopping festivals. China is dominating the social commerce industry, especially when it comes to live shopping. Retailers in the country host live shopping days, such as Singles’ Day, to drive sales. Capitalize on these festivals by sharing content and running ads across WeChat. Botkier reached 750,000 new users and saw a 960% ROI from their Singles’ Day campaign.
WeChat micro apps have the practical benefit of allowing users to make purchases and engage with sellers directly from WeChat. They are able to share their favorite products with their loved ones. They can really take part in the entire purchasing process without ever having to leave WeChat.”
—James Rehm, Chief Operating Officer at Skuuudle
YouTube is the most popular website to watch videos in the US. Its 2.1 billion users stream 694,000 hours of video every minute. The platform is piloting new social commerce features to turn its views into customers.
- Sync YouTube with Shopify. Install the Google channel on your store and choose which products you want to add to YouTube Shopping. Viewers will then see shoppable product tags beneath the video, directing them toward your Shopify products without relying on them to read the full description, nor exiting their video.
- Partner with creators and influencers. YouTube is credited as one of the first social media platforms to breed the generation of online influencers. Capture the 89% of viewers who think YouTube creators give product recommendations they can trust by collaborating with influencers in your niche.
- Host shoppable livestreams.Kraft Heinz sponsored its first live YouTube shopping broadcast with a popular channel in its niche, Team2Moms. The influencers behind the channel produced spooky makeup looks and costume tutorials, referencing shoppable Heinz products beneath the video.
“By hosting our first livestream, we were able to connect with fans across the country who could watch the action unfold live, and actively participate without ever leaving the comfort of home.” —Ashleigh Gibson, brand director, Kraft Heinz (via Modern Retail)
Capture social shoppers today
The best social commerce platform for your business is one your target audience actively uses. Circle back to what you already know about your audience, and create social media storefronts on the platforms they’re already familiar with.
Create seamless shopping experiences with Shopify’s suite of social media integrations. Manage, optimize, and sell products across several social commerce platforms—all from one dashboard. Talk about making it easier to sell where your customers are.
Social Commerce FAQs
1. What is social commerce?
Social commerce is the use of social media platforms to market and sell products and services. It lets users buy products within social platforms without exiting to another ecommerce website.
2. How does social commerce work?
Social commerce takes online shopping and fully integrates it into social media. Consumers can use their favorite social media platforms to find, browse, and purchase products, all without leaving the platform.
Social commerce relies on social media platforms’ native shopping tools like Facebook Shops. They can also use ecommerce integrations with platforms like Shopify.
3. Why is social commerce important?
Social commerce lets brands sell their products directly on social media platforms and offers a more seamless shopping experience. When customers find products they like on social media, all they need to do is click through to checkout without leaving the app. This quicker and more convenient experience lowers the risk of abandoned shopping carts.
4. What are examples of social commerce?
Any brand that promotes and sells its products through social media platforms is an example of social commerce. For example, DTC brands Glossier and Snug sell their products through Instagram Shops. Customers can view product images, read details, and make purchases without exiting the app.