From dynamic ads to buy buttons, social media platforms of many sizes and stripes have gradually rolled out e-commerce features.
How have they fared so far? And which ones will get a page in the playbooks of e-commerce marketers in 2017? Here we recap and explore recent developments in social commerce, and look ahead to what social media has in store for online retailers in 2017.
E-commerce feature: Dynamic ads
Facebook dynamic ads are a product-level, direct response ad format that allows retailers to retarget consumers with the exact or similar products they browsed on a retail website or mobile app. They were introduced in February 2015. In December 2016, they were extended to include app installs.
Impact so far: With dynamic ads a strong driver of mobile sales, and many other ad formats to choose from, retailers are turning to Facebook for direct response advertising instead of just for branding.
Dynamic ads offer the personalization and scale e-commerce marketers need in any channel. The ads’ retargeting capability can be applied across a retailer’s entire product catalog. And reach? Facebook hosts over 1 billion mobile daily active users, making it an ideal place to connect with potential customers on mobile.
Outlook for 2017: Given the variety of retail-friendly ad formats and features Facebook has rolled out in the past few years, Facebook will likely widen its footprint in retail.
E-commerce feature: Shop tags
Instagram began testing shop tags with 20 U.S. retailers in November 2016. Shop tags, which users tap to reveal in native posts (outside of ads), allow retailers to tag up to five products with more detail and prices, all with the intention of providing users more information to consider products. Users can then shop the products by clicking a “Shop Now” link that funnels to the retailer’s checkout page.
Impact so far: By revealing item name, price, and other details about products within posts, Instagram’s shop tags give consumers a path from product discovery to purchase consideration without having to leave their feed.
As a rapidly growing social platform that is steadily adding e-commerce features, Instagram has potential. First, Instagram just reached 600 million monthly active users in December 2016, adding 100 million users in the previous six months. Second, Instagram’s users are known to be highly receptive to brands — 68% of users regularly engage with brands on Instagram. Third, Instagram is mobile-first, making it a place to spark interest in products on mobile.
Because Facebook owns Instagram, we can think of Instagram’s features as an extension of Facebook’s commitment to retail, and a reason to stay tuned for new developments.
Outlook for 2017: In their current format, shop tags present ways for retailers to showcase their brand and for consumers to discover retail products shown in context. But shoppable posts still have a way to go before they can generate e-commerce results that grab retailers’ attention.
E-commerce feature: Buyable pins
Pinterest users can purchase products straight from the Pinterest website with buyable pins, which were introduced on mobile in June 2015 and on desktop in June 2016. Buyable pins with blue tags appear in home feeds, boards, and search results. Retailers implement buyable pins through integrations with third-party e-commerce platforms.
Impact so far: When buyable pins rolled out in 2015, Pinterest was positioned to put social commerce on retailers’ front burner.
Pinterest’s 100 million monthly active users discover and catalog their favorite ideas, inspirations, and products using the pinboard. The aspirational user experience ties naturally into shopping. In fact, 93% of Pinterest users have used the platform to plan for purchases.
Retailers cite gains in new customer acquisition and referral traffic from buyable pins, but it’s unclear how often customers make purchases with this feature.
So buyable pins have the makings to really sell on social media…but online sales with Pinterest have been incremental. Retailers cite gains in new customer acquisition and referral traffic from buyable pins, but it’s unclear how often customers make purchases with this feature.
Some argue that consumers may not be entirely familiar with buy capabilities sites like Pinterest offer, or that purchasing products on social media just isn’t consistent with consumer behavior — at least not yet.
Outlook for 2017: Much like Instagram, the issue with Pinterest’s buyable pins is one of scale. Pinterest facilitates brand and product discovery, but it’s unlikely to generate the volume of conversions most e-commerce marketers are after.