Digital commerce without social media? There really is no such thing anymore. Companies that sell their products online have long understood the importance of Facebook, Instagram and the like as advertising channels and incentives to buy: “Social selling” (or social shopping) is a marketing must. But no sooner has this powerful sales tool established itself in Germany than the next trend emerges: social commerce. Sounds as if it’s the same as digital commerce? Not quite.
Because while digital commerce (formerly e-commerce) basically maps all elements of physical sales on an online platform or in a brand app – for example, based on an e-commerce software platform like Shopify – with social commerce, the customer’s entire customer journey takes place within the social media platform: From product search to checkout. This means for providers: They no longer necessarily need their own e-commerce website. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok already offer native social commerce features that can be set up quickly and easily, and thus act like a digital storefront.
Not the same thing
So social commerce is not an antithesis of digital commerce, nor is it a synonym, but a sub-variant of digital commerce. And to top off the confusion: Social commerce and social selling are not congruent either, but they certainly have parallels and overlaps, because in both cases the impulse to buy today usually comes from a social media channel. However, social commerce focuses on the entire purchase process within a social media platform – while social selling primarily aims to develop a customer relationship per se, which, there is no need to fool oneself, should naturally lead to a purchase transaction.
Social commercial grows as number of social media users increases
Social commerce is booming. Accenture estimates the global market volume of social commerce at USD 1.232 trillion in 2025. Compared to the 492 billion U.S. dollars in 2021, this would be well over double the previous year’s figure. Other studies assume even higher values, as Shopify describes in an extensive blog post on the topic.
Social commerce is booming because social media in general is booming. According to figures from “We are Social,” Hootsuite, and DataReportal, the number of social media users worldwide is 4.62 billion, ten percent more than in 2021, with Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok among the top ten networks worldwide.
Even in Germany
In Germany, around 42% of all online shoppers have already made purchases via social media, according to a survey by the online portal GetApp. Discount codes were a particular trigger, but a YouGov study also cites an urgent need, the exclusivity of the product via social media, the practical, fast checkout process, or an appealing advertisement as reasons for making a purchase.
In this context, German online shoppers prefer to buy via Facebook and Instagram, says YouGov. However, a study by eMarketer and Klarna also sees YouTube and Snapchat among the most popular channels.
How companies benefit – even small ones
For brand owners and companies that already sell their products and services online, social commerce offers important leverage in customer acquisition: Not just because the reach is enormous – and especially so among millennials and Generation Z. In addition, the platforms offer valuable insights into the preferences of potential customers and thus valuable data. And when it comes to customer feedback, providers also get a direct and unvarnished reflection of their buyers’ opinions. Although this can be brutal at times, the confrontation with negative opinions makes it possible to identify weaknesses at an early stage and change them accordingly. And since social commerce does not necessarily require the use of a dedicated e-commerce platform, smaller companies can also take the online sales route.
Print shops can also be found on social media
Admittedly, for print shops, implementing social commerce may not be quite as easy as we’ve just described, because print products are not usually one-click purchases – after all, content and designs have to be additionally uploaded by the customer or created in an editor. But there is always potential here! And who is to say that there won’t be mixed forms in the future, with products that can be purchased entirely on the social media platform and those that are advertised on Instagram and the like, but ultimately designed in the editor on the company’s own website.
Incidentally, some print shops are already successfully using social media: Sendmoments and myposter are even examples of the type of social commerce I just described – namely on Instagram. But brands such as print-emotion.de, pack-your-food.de or packaging-warehouse.com are also already using social media platforms consistently and successfully to publicize their brands and present their portfolios. And that is just a small selection.
We can therefore look forward to seeing how other print shops will use Facebook, Instagram and the like in the future. What’s more, there’s likely to be a lot more to come in terms of the editor. But perhaps more on that another time.