Imagine if just two social media influencers outsold the whole of Amazon’s global operations by a factor of three. Sounds unlikely? It happened one day last autumn. In China, two of the country’s most popular live streamers, Li Jiaqi and Viya, sold around $3 billion worth of goods in a single day. That’s three times Amazon’s average daily sales globally.
It’s why brands all around the world are getting ready for a social commerce revolution. New research from Accenture suggests the market is set to grow three times faster than “traditional” ecommerce over the next three years. By 2025, it’s expected to be worth $1.2 trillion in total, up from $492 billion today.
That’s a huge pool of value to tap into. But it’s important to recognize it’s also a genuine shift in how products are bought and sold. Social commerce means the whole end-to-end shopping experience takes place within the social media platform.
No more clicking through to a proprietary app to transact. Everything from product discovery to payment happens seamlessly in one place.
Content, experience, network
This social integration fundamentally changes the shopping experience. For example, much social commerce is content-driven, in that it leverages unique content created by influencers and individuals as well as brands. That drives more authentic forms of discovery and engagement, such as shoppable posts and in-app stores on social platforms.
Social commerce can also be more experience-driven, as retail transactions are embedded into broader social experiences, such as live streaming or even augmented/virtual reality. Obsess's Shop with Friends, which allows groups of friends to visit virtual shops together, is a great example.
Then there’s the network effects for buyers and sellers. China’s Pinduoduo, for example, brings buyers together to procure bulk discounts (and now has more active buyers than Alibaba). And India’s Meesho helps its more than 13 million individual entrepreneurs reach customers via social media platforms such as WhatsApp.
Opportunity for all who embrace the change
That’s not to say big brands and retailers don’t have a role in social commerce. Far from it. It’s just that they’re now only one group of participants alongside many others -- including users, influencers, creators, resellers, smaller brands, social platforms, and third-party service providers.
This is a more complex and dynamic ecosystem, but also a richer one. To adapt to it, brands will need to put “people” at the heart of their strategies. They’ll also likely need to consider new types of partnerships and business models.
We’re starting to see interesting examples of innovation, such as one large retail company that’s working with TikTok on livestream shopping events and beauty brands creating a new way for people to try on makeup on Instagram via augmented reality.
Of course, influencers and individuals are at the center of social shopping, whether they’re monetizing their own brands, like breakout TikTok star Item Beauty, or working with partners like apparel brand Express to become Style Editors who are rewarded for attracting new customers and driving sales.
Welcome to the social revolution
Social commerce is revolutionary because it cuts across just about every consumer category, every product and service, and every platform. And because it’s driven by individual creativity, it’s enabling smaller brands to capture outsized shares of consumer attention and spending.
There’s an exciting opportunity for big brands too. But they’ll need to reevaluate their relevance for this more dynamic marketplace. Because, in the social revolution, the power is in the hands of the people.