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The Rise of Social Shopping & How Marketplaces Facilitate this Growing Consumer Trend

14 September 2021


Social shopping is a rising trend which is characterised by consumers making purchase decisions based on reviews, recommendations and social media posts about a product. Users can utilize social media networks in an effort to recommend and share various products or services to their family, friends or other internet users. Such behaviour is certainly on the increase – with many marketplaces attempting to blend commerce and social media in order to drive revenue.

The number one best-selling clothing product on Amazon for most of January and February was a pair of high-waisted leggings that went viral on the social app TikTok. Indeed, “TikTok leggings” is still one of the most-searched terms on Amazon. Although social commerce is at its infancy in the US, it is starting to drive sales invisibly on the surface. TikTok has been introducing shopping features over the past few months (for example, most recently it added shops and affiliates). 

In addition, the likes of Facebook and Instagram are expanding their shopping efforts too. With this in mind, this article will explore how we are reaching a tipping point in which shopping will be driven by organic content and discovery, not necessarily by ads, and these discoveries will happen on social platforms such as TikTok. Will there come a point in the future when social platforms inevitably morph into marketplaces and what is the opportunity for brands here?



For starters, the idea of social shopping is not necessarily a brand-new concept. Depop, founded in 2011, is a peer-to-peer shopping app that many users utilise as a thrift store. In other words, Depop is a mobile marketplace in which individuals can buy and sell their used items. However, the interesting thing to note is the social media feel that Depop has – with the layout being likened to other social media apps such as Instagram. 

Examples of these social media-like features are numerous. To begin with, the app boasts opportunities for interaction in which users can like and comment on items, as well as send direct messages to sellers regarding item queries. For example, customers are able to ask sellers about things such as postage, sizes as well as negotiating on price. 

To continue, each seller has a profile page where users can browse their selection of products and product images. In addition, profile pages have statuses, prices, profile pictures, reviews as well as a followers/following count (which is incredibly similar to Instagram). This also leads on to another feature reminiscent of Instagram which are the hashtags. In order to list an item, sellers are required to include hashtags alongside all relevant information such as descriptions/colours. With all of this in mind, it is clear to see that there is an opportunity for businesses to expand into social shopping. 



Aside from the likes of Depop and many others enabling peer to peer shopping with a social media theme, lots of companies are taking this a step further – with exciting technological breakthroughs launching social shopping to the next level. One example of this which was briefly mentioned earlier is the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok. Companies such as TikTok, Facebook and Amazon have embraced social shopping through things like livestreams.

Although these social commerce trends seem to be a lot more dominant in China, the popularity of these methods is gaining a lot of traction in the US too. For example, Amazon has already launched their own live streaming service called Amazon Live, which allows brands to create their own shoppable advertising streams. Giving businesses the ability to engage with customers in real time and drive more revenue and interactions, Amazon Live is a good example of how shopping through live streaming can be advantageous for both merchants and customers alike.

To continue, in a similar fashion it is also now possible to sell products on Facebook through live streaming, which gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your products and their features. As well as being an interactive way of selling with chances to connect directly with your consumers, it’s also a crucial form of providing them with more information than they can acquire through traditional ads. All in all, it’s clear that particularly with the pandemic, people are spending less time in physical stores and more time on social media, which when coupled provides an opportunity for brands to improve their social shopping strategy in order to gain more traction with their viewers. 



The short answer is yes. Nowadays it is generally known that most of us make our purchase decisions based on reviews at the very least. Traditionally, a lot of people would buy or not buy products based on word of mouth; this method has evolved into what we now regard as reviews. With the existence of social media, every business – including yours – is now being talked about online, whether that be by your customers or even employees in some cases. These discussions will be happening regardless, so why not as a business get involved in the discussion and have your say?



A good first step to getting involved in improving your social media footprint is to monitor what customers are already saying about you. Start to understand what people are already saying by searching for mentions of your brand across the internet and social media. Don’t just search for positive reviews: it’s also crucial that you look at negative feedback, including anyone accusing your company of being a scam. 

Furthermore, one of the most basic ways to start to tap into social shopping is by providing social media support. This is likely something that you should be doing already – so if you aren’t, now is the time. Providing support over social media allows you to address specific customer issues directly using the same platform that the complaint was made on, whether that be Twitter, Facebook etc. This also restores faith in other customers who have similar concerns (or are just thinking about buying) that you’re an active merchant who cares about resolving consumer issues. 

Another great way to tap into the idea of social shopping is by allowing your customers to upload photos of your products. For example, on the marketplace AliExpress, customers can include photos in their reviews. This can be something as simple as a photo of the product with a description of the quality, depending on what the product is of course. For instance, with clothes, it’s common for customers to include photos of them wearing it as well as their size, which can be helpful for other buyers to get an idea of how the product may look and fit. 



Whatever your strategy and the nature of your company, there is no shortage of ways to use social media to help drive revenue and customer satisfaction for your business. As mentioned too, this is certainly something that is here to stay with millions of people spending hours on their phones and social media on a daily basis. Simple advertisements may not quite be enough anymore – customers are looking for more to catch their attention such as giveaways, celebrity endorsements or even discovering a product through viral videos.  

Our research team keeps abreast of trends to ensure we can always deliver excellence to our clients. While social shopping is still in its infancy, we are constantly monitoring the space including new trends that arise, in order to ensure that our clients are able to compete on the global marketplace stage. To stay ahead of the curve with us, sign up to our newsletter!



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