We are all constantly using social media, and social is already closely tied to shopping. Almost all – 97% – of Gen-Z uses social media as their number one source of shopping inspiration. 83% of TikTok users say that trending content has driven them to make a purchase. #tiktokmademebuyit has over 2.9 billion views. The trend is clear.

Closing the gap between social media and commerce is a natural next step. That’s where social commerce comes in. It is, as the name suggests, the practice of selling products directly in a social feed.

The reduced friction cuts the likelihood of cart abandonment and increases the odds of making an impulse purchase. In other words, it’s a simpler way to buy.

Which platforms support social commerce?

Instagram and TikTok have pioneered social commerce, and they’re continually fine-tuning it. Instagram’s new “drop” feature, for instance, enables customers to participate in high-buzz, limited-stock releases from retailers – all without leaving the feed.

So, what’s the catch? For one, most social networks take a commission – in the case of Instagram and Facebook it’s 5% per shipment or a flat US $0.40 for shipments worth under US $8 (although fees are currently suspended due to Covid), while TikTok charges 2%.

Checking out on the social page also cuts out a visit to the retailer’s website, which means handing over control of data collection. Is that a worthwhile trade-off? Retailers will have to weigh the efficiency and convenience against the loss of information on a product-by-product basis.

Additionally, brands don’t need to be on every channel. They should consider their target demographic and design their approach to suit them. The most significant difference across platforms is by age. TikTok, for example, is most popular with Gen Z, Instagram has intergenerational appeal, and Facebook is more popular among older demographics.

Developing a social commerce strategy

The key to convincing social media users to impulse buy a product is trust. Whether they’ve been thinking about a purchase for a while or have just discovered the product, their willingness to tap “buy” depends on whether they believe the product will look or work the way the social media content suggests it will.

We know that reputable brands aren’t misrepresenting their products, so how can they generate this trust? Polished ads or sponsored content are popular solutions, although it’s not unusual for users to scroll right by them. Genuine reviews and organic recommendations also boost trust in a product, but there’s little brands can do to generate these besides delivering on their promises.

One effective approach is to work with influencers. Their endorsement of a product carries real sway among their followers, building that all-important trust. Savvy brands also fit influencers into their larger marketing strategy, leveraging the creative, thumb-stopping content they produce as advertisements on the social platform and beyond.

Social commerce is taking off

It’s still unclear exactly where social commerce will fit in the larger marketing mix. Instagram only launched its feature to the public in 2020, and all of the major platforms are still actively developing their offerings.

However, being new isn’t stopping it from growing and analysts predict that it will grow at an astonishing 31.4% compound annual growth rate until at least 2027. At that point, the global social commerce market will be worth an estimated US $604.5 billion. For brands that are looking for a piece of that success, now is the time to get started.