By Alexandra Zamfir

October 28th, 2016

Social media only accounts for 2.7% of online and mobile traffic to e-commerce sites, and just 1% of orders, according to the Demandware’s Q2 2016 Shopping Index. However, with the fascinating development of Pinterest and Facebook’s latest social e-commerce features, social media’s role in the buying process looks set to increase. E-commerce businesses had better pay attention.

Social media is driving far greater increases in retail traffic than any other digital channel. Its share of e-commerce referrals increased by nearly 200% between the first quarters of 2014 and 2015. We have also crossed the threshold where social is no longer just a source of traffic, it contributes real revenue by allowing purchasing directly on the network.

The three top social commerce platforms are Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, with Facebook continuing to grow its lead. Facebook accounts for 50% of total social referrals and 64% of total social revenue. Pinterest has managed to become a major social commerce player despite a relatively small user base. According to Pinterest, the platform drives more retail e-commerce traffic than Instagram and Twitter, and is North America’s second-largest social media driver of retail e-commerce traffic. Pinterest accounts for 17% of social traffic to retail brand sites, while Twitter generates 5%, according to L2’s Social Platforms report.

Pinterest is growing and will play a big role in the future 

Pinterest is the dark horse in this race. The pinning platform recently announced that it has reached 150 million users worldwide. In addition, the gender divide is quite close at 60% women and 40% men. This adoption makes Pinterest an ideal network for brands wanting to reach a diverse and international audience far beyond the reach of their stores or websites. If your audience is on Pinterest, that’s where your brand should be as well.

Pinners are very active shoppers that spend a lot of money online. According to Millward Brown, “93% of Pinners have used Pinterest to plan for or make purchases and 52% have seen something on Pinterest and made a purchase online.” Shopify research tells us that the average order value of Pinterest referral traffic is $58.95, which beats Facebook’s average of $55.

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An important factor to consider before establishing a presence on Pinterest is that 80% of its traffic comes from mobile – so make sure that your offering is optimized for this device. On a similar note, if your purpose is to drive traffic to your website, make sure the website is also optimized for mobile. Going from a mobile-first environment to a poorly designed mobile experience can be a major turn-off for audiences.

What makes Pinterest unique here is how the platform positions itself and how it is seen by users. Accepting that Facebook and Twitter have firmly staked out the top two spots in the social media sphere, Pinterest and others now seek to differentiate themselves. We recently saw how LinkedIn is now positioning itself as the employer branding network with its Next Gen Career Pages, and Pinterest too is stepping away from a purely social image. At Social Media Week this year, Michael Akkerman, Pinterest Head of Marketing and Developer Partnerships said: “Pinterest doesn’t see itself as a social platform. There are some social aspects to it, but it’s very personal and it’s aspirational for the future.” 

Facebook and Pinterest are doubling down on e-commerce

Both Facebook and Pinterest are rapidly introducing new features to develop e-commerce and pave the way to allowing purchases directly on the networks.

Pinterest has been focusing on its ad offering lately, giving users buyable and promoted pins, video ads and new retargeting options. People who’ve clicked on a Pin are four times more likely to take action on that Pin in the future. That makes it even more important to reach these users with content personalized to their interests and stage in the customer journey. With that in mind, Pinterest has also been quick to incorporate video in its advertising options.

 

You can now also shop directly on Pinterest with buyable pins. While it may not drive traffic to the website, it allows for a simpler customer journey where Pinners can purchase an item directly from Pinterest on whichever device they’re on. This opens up whole new audiences to retailers.

According to Pinterest: “Online merchant FlyAway BlueJay said that 100% of their sales generated through buyable pins are from people who have never bought from them before. They also told us that 20% of total sales over the holidays came from buyable pins.” In addition, you can now also promote pins to make sure your items reach more relevant audiences.

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It’s no secret that Facebook is trying to position Messenger as an e-commerce tool. That’s why the network introduced monetization, allowing Messenger bots to accept payments directly within the app. Another integration worth mentioning is Uber’s, which allows people to hail a ride straight from Messenger.

In a recent set of updates, Facebook introduced three new call-to-action buttons to Messenger: Get a Quote, Book a Time and Shop Now. These instantly start a messaging thread between the business and customer. Users will also be able to start delivery orders, buy tickets, book appointments and see showtimes.

Improving the e-commerce experience by looking at customer behavior

People shopping want to waste as little time as possible and avoid a tiresome maze of pages. As we spend so much of our time on social, it’s only natural that social networks seek to integrate as many social e-commerce functions as possible. The potential benefits for brands are extensive: huge distribution networks, increased awareness and entire new audiences. While social won’t overtake the appeal of commerce sites, it’s a welcome addition to current website traffic and helps drive a seamless buying experience.

If you’re in e-commerce, you’ll want to make sure that your pins and pages are dressed to impress. 2017 might just be the year when social starts bringing in the big bucks.

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