Two hours and 24 minutes. That is the average time U.S. consumers spend on social media every day, browsing their feeds for news, updating their statuses and chatting with friends. But, as of late, they are also spending more and more of those 144 minutes shopping for their day-to-day purchases.
Consumers’ use and adoption of social media platforms for purchasing goods and services are only positioned to grow further. By 2024, social commerce is set to account for $84 billion worth of U.S. retail sales, with millennials and Gen Z consumers leading the charge.
Social media platforms are, of course, taking notice and are actively investing in capturing the growing opportunity. Snapchat, for one, teamed up with Verishop last week to offer a curated shopping experience that lives exclusively within its mobile app. The company is also heavily investing in amplifying its experience through augmented reality (AR) solutions in an effort to put its own spin on social commerce. Twitter, meanwhile, is enabling select brands and retailers to sell products on top of their profiles.
And Facebook, the largest social media platform of all, has launched Shops, offering consumers a curated and personalized way to discover products by bringing brands and retailers to the platform and enabling them to sell items directly through Facebook and/or Instagram.
The company’s investment in Facebook Shops seems to be paying off. In June 2020, eMarketer found Facebook to be the top social commerce platform, with 18 percent of survey respondents revealing they had purchased a product via Facebook, while 11 percent reporting to have made purchases via Instagram.
The backbone of social commerce – user-generated content (UGC)
For years, businesses have leaned on YouTube unboxing videos, product reviews and Instagram influencers to help their customers validate purchasing decisions. Why? Because user-generated content (UGC) comes from real people, it’s authentic and more importantly, it’s more relatable.
Furthermore, UGC is seen as the next best thing for understanding what a product will look like in real-world scenarios, the longevity of the product and the potential pros and cons of the item that may not be visible to the naked eye. This becomes especially significant as online shopping experiences bar consumers from physically examining products before making the purchase.
According to a Bazaarvoice survey of more than 6,000 consumers and 11,500 brands, 42 percent of consumers revealed that they would not purchase from a traditional eCommerce site unless user-generated content were made available on the product page. Meanwhile, 49 percent of shoppers revealed that they looked for customer photos on the product page, followed by other websites where the product was sold (47 percent) as well as search engines (35 percent).
While these findings suggest how brands can improve on their eCommerce shopping experience, the need for validation from user-generated content/reviews and customer photos are noteworthy. It is a lesson that is particularly applicable in the social commerce realm, where brands can showcase user-generated content to drive conversion rates.
Closing the gap between UGC and shopping featured products
While UGC is an incredibly powerful tool, it was not until the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when social platforms finally began addressing the gap between offering original content and enabling customers to seamlessly shop the products featured in that content.
For example, Instagram finally made Reels shoppable by the end of 2020, allowing both businesses and creators to tag products in their Reels, which could then be clicked on to shop. In addition to the shoppable Reels feature, the company also enabled users to shop via Instagram posts, Stories, Live and through its Explore feed.
The move was pivotal as it amplified both product discovery and purchasing confidence while also enabling users to complete their purchase either through Instagram or through a merchant’s website.
Why UGC will always remain triumphant in social commerce
While social media platforms are looking to invest in innovative technologies such as augmented reality (AR) to offer more thoughtful, personalized experiences to boost buyer confidence, drive sales and reduce return volume rates, the one social commerce experience that will always remain triumphant and will always need focus is UGC; whether it be through a styling endorsement shot or an in-depth review, because — let’s face it — social commerce would never cease to exist without powerful, shareable, user-generated content.