Most social networks have been looking for ways to monetise their user base in the past couple of years. Beyond the targeted advertising now offered by the likes of Facebook and Twitter, one of the most often discussed opportunities is the ability to sell to consumers directly on the social platform – so much so that some commentators have been claiming that ‘this is the year of social commerce’ every New Year for what seems like the past five years.

The social commerce tipping point?

This year social platforms indeed have made dramatic strides to offer shoppers the ability to buy as part of the social experience. For example, Facebook introduced its new ‘buy’ button earlier this year, which was swiftly followed by Pinterest’s ‘buyable pins’ and Twitter’s recent launch of its own ‘buy’ button. But are consumers really ready to browse and shop on social media? Apparently they are!

According to research that Bronto conducted with YouGov for the report “Are We Ready to Use the Social ‘Buy’ Button?”, one-third of UK shoppers (32%) are ready to make a purchase via social media. The results also reveal consumers would be willing to spend an average of £55.68 on a single item via social channels, meaning that the social commerce marketplace could be as big as 16 million UK buyers spending an estimated £900m per year. This all points to a social commerce tipping point that British retailers should not ignore.

Adding to existing experience

To build successful social commerce strategies, marketers will need to first stop thinking of social media as one uniform space in which to sell. It’s important that a business approaches each platform in a unique way, the content it requires and the audience they may be able to engage – without alienating them by interrupting their social experience. Only then will they know which networks offer their brand true value as both a channel to engage with and sell to their audience.

Take the example of Facebook, which has shown remarkable diligence in trying to find a way to enable retailers to sell to its users. Facebook began its social commerce initiative in a separate area on the platform called ‘Facebook Marketplace’, but with the launch of the ‘buy’ button has now moved to an experience that is more closely aligned to the way consumers naturally browse the site. Rather than trying to redirect potential customers, commerce marketers can engage consumers in ways they are already connecting with the brand on social, but with an additional layer of commerce.

If retailers are able to add convenience and value to the lives of their customers, then it’s likely that there will be a commerce marketing opportunity on social networks. Some commerce marketers may decide to wait for these new channels to grow beyond early adopters before investing in them, but they should be wary of missing the boat and losing ground to early movers and nimble competitors already taking advantage of and experimenting with that channel. The key to success will be to start looking at social commerce now. That way retailers will be able to understand the commercial opportunities social media offers, know how to use it as part of a broader commerce strategy and be well placed to take advantage of this new channel as it grows. Brands that don’t start this thought process run the risk of missing out on a marketplace that could be worth millions in the coming years.


By Georges Berzgal, Managing Director Europe at Bronto Software.

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