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Exploring Social Media’s Growing Commerce Ambitions

As social media takes a more central role in people’s lives as a way to connect and share, it has become arguably the most important channel for retailers and brands to raise awareness and drive action. As these tight knit communities grow in both influence and size, their evolution has seen them go from places to participate in conversations and build a following into marketing channels and de facto front doors to the wider online experience. More recently, however, the addition of new commerce tools and capabilities has transformed them into valuable storefronts to facilitate sales, meaning that users on popular platforms like Instagram and Pinterest can now discover a product and purchase directly within their feeds.

Platforms eager to monetize their users and create opportunities for brands to engage their target audience are rolling out a host of new features from shoppable content to live streamed events that combine education and social interaction with native shopping carts and checkout. This same functionality is enabling influencers of any scale to generate incremental income through affiliate links, transforming any casual fan or brand ambassador into a valuable sales channel. For their part, brands and retailers are also testing out ways to bring the social aspect of in-person shopping onto their own digital platforms with tools that allow groups of friends to shop together from anywhere. 

And while not traditionally thought of as social networks, the mainstreaming of massively multiplayer games like Fortnite and Roblox has generated excitement from the industry around the potential of the metaverse to usher in a new paradigm for the internet. Within the retail sphere, this opens the door to an expanded marketplace for digital goods and the creation of immersive, virtual environments for shopping online.

It’s an exciting time for retailers and brands to explore the expansive social landscape and begin experimenting with the various buying and selling formats. For the moment at least, this is where a growing majority of consumers, particularly those in the younger demographic, are spending their time and attention and increasingly their dollars.