The Rise of Social Commerce Goes Beyond TikTok

Written by Macdara Duncan, International Sales Director at Sprii

The rise of live shopping, especially on TikTok, is transforming the retail industry for both buyers and sellers. In a recent article from The Guardian, valuable insights into this growing trend were provided. While TikTok has undoubtedly become a prominent platform for “shoppertainment,” our data and experience at Sprii indicate that this phenomenon goes well beyond just one app or channel. Social commerce is rapidly evolving across several platforms and demographics, providing retailers with a crucial new channel to engage with modern consumers.

At Sprii, our research, and sales data show that social shopping is experiencing significant growth, not only on TikTok but also on Facebook and Instagram. In fact, more than 70% of the consumers we surveyed reported making direct purchases through these social platforms at least once a month. Furthermore, their buying preferences extend beyond fast fashion and cosmetics. Our client base reflects a wide range of purchases, from home furnishings, electronics, food and drink and every sector in between. While the Guardian article mainly focuses on younger TikTok users, we have observed enthusiastic engagement from Baby Boomers, for example, purchasing home goods through Facebook Live events and Gen Xers buying high-value electronics via Instagram.  

Live shopping fulfills the need to engage with others

The desire for connection and community is a universal aspect that transcends demographics and products. As Adrian Palmer from Henley Business School astutely observes, live shopping addresses and fulfills our innate need to engage with others. Throughout history, traditional retail has revolved around building relationships and fostering meaningful emotional experiences. However, the rapid shift towards digital platforms has left many shoppers feeling disconnected from brands, despite the convenience they offer. Fortunately, social commerce now presents both large retailers and small businesses with the opportunity to rebuild these personal connections in the digital realm – and form a ‘hybrid link’ between eCommerce and traditional high street retail.  

Let’s consider the case of Curvilicious, a boutique located in Lancashire that focuses on providing stylish clothing for plus-size women. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to indefinitely close their physical store the owner, devised an innovative solution. She began hosting live shopping events on our platform, personally modelling, and showcasing the trendy and body-positive fashion line while engaging with customers in real-time. Despite the absence of foot traffic, this strategy proved successful in swiftly rebuilding sales.

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But what truly sets their approach apart is her ability to create a sense of community among her customers. Through these interactive events, she fosters a welcoming and inclusive environment where women with similar tastes can connect and discover fashionable yet affordable clothing. This emotional connection formed during the events resonates deeply with customers who appreciate the feeling of belonging and the understanding it brings.

This is just one instance of how businesses have adjusted during difficult times to not only maintain their sales but also cultivate meaningful connections with their customer base.  

Customer engagement is all about fostering community

The sense of community fostered by these live shopping events is what keeps customers engaged, whether they’re from Bolton or Boise. The Guardian article featured a sweet seller who shared that one of their regular viewers tunes into their TikTok livestream every day, from America, even though they can’t purchase any products due to shipping limitations. Despite this, the viewer still finds value in being part of the experience and connecting with the host and other viewers. This demonstrates the strong loyalty that live shopping can cultivate, much like what influencers are able to achieve.

Certainly, there are challenges that arise. As mentioned in the article, negative comments and toxic trolls continue to pose a problem on TikTok and other platforms. Additionally, maintaining high energy and stamina required for consistently engaging hosting can be exhausting. However, our sales data and client success stories provide solid evidence of the revenue impact that brands experience when they embrace social commerce. Our clients consistently achieve conversion rates over 5% from live events compared to the average of 1-2% from traditional e-commerce. Moreover, for struggling small businesses like Curvilicious, adopting social commerce can potentially serve as a life­line during uncertain times.

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While some analysts dismiss shopping on social platforms as a passing trend embraced mainly by cost-conscious Gen Z consumers buying affordable fast fashion and cosmetics, the global social commerce industry is projected to exceed $600 billion by 2027, according to Insider Intelligence. Forward thinking retailers understand the importance of adapting and engaging with modern consumers who already invest considerable time, attention, and money on social media. Live social shopping combines the convenience and accessibility of online shopping with the personalized experience and communal aspect of in-store purchases without replacing physical stores or websites.

The Guardian’s feature effectively highlights the rapid changes taking place in retail and culture. However, the impact of social shopping extends beyond just teenagers and young adults purchasing fast fashion on TikTok. This shift provides a genuine opportunity for businesses of all sizes to utilize social platforms to build communities, engage with diverse audiences, and generate revenue. For retailers willing to embrace this evolution, it can serve as a lifeline and pave the way for future success. At Sprii, we are excited to be part of this journey.