KEY POINTS

  • Social still only accounts for a small share of total retail sales, but its impact on people's shopping and buying activity is rising fast. The top 500 retailers earned $3.3 billion from social shopping in 2014, up 26% over 2013, while the overall e-commerce market grew by 16%.
  • Social is also driving much bigger increases in retail traffic than any other online channel. Social media increased its share of e-commerce referrals nearly 200% between the first quarters of 2014 and 2015. 
  • For retailers to maintain these social gains, they will need to pay special attention to mobile, where social engagement with retail content is still limited. Social media users are 35% less likely to share a brand's or retailer's social post on mobile than they are on desktop computers.
  • Facebook continues to grow its lead as the dominant social commerce platform. Facebook accounts for 50% of total social referrals and 64% of total social revenue. The site's changing demographics could make older consumers a strong target for retailers leveraging the platform. 
  • Pinterest is a major social commerce player despite a relatively small user base. The pinning platform drives 16% of social revenue despite an audience 6.5 times smaller than Twitter. New buy and action buttons on retailer posts should make Pinterest an even stronger referral and revenue engine for brands.
  • Twitter is losing its influence for mass-market merchants, but it could still have a role to play among sporting and events marketers, especially for location-based promotions. Recently, NFL and NBA teams have used Twitter to sell game tickets and merchandise. 
  • Instagram doesn't drive significant sales activity for retailers but high-end companies have been leveraging the platform for branding purposes. New Buy buttons on paid posts, as well as increased targeting capabilities, could make the app a more important direct-response driver.
  • YouTube is a relative laggard for social commerce activity, but new shoppable videos could change that. The site is debuting videos that incorporate pop-up ads allowing people to purchase products they see on their screen. This will also likely help drive up ad prices on YouTube.
  • Other social commerce initiatives include enabling Facebook Messenger as a customer service tool and using influencers on Snapchat to reach teens and millennials with branding-focused images and videos.


Sizing social media's role for retailers 

Social media may still only drive a small share of total online [...]