Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat have over 2.5 billion users between them. That's a whole lot of people, and for retailers, a global marketplace like no other. These networks have transformed the face of shopping, powered in no small part by that perennial agent of change, the smartphone.
The combined power of the mobile social network has created an online shopping experience built on discovery, comparison and interaction. While a trip to the shopping centre used to involve a few friends, today there's an entire generation online sharing, liking and commenting together as they shop.
Instagram recently hit 500,000 advertisers, more than double the number it had in February and in doing so, surpassed some of the social media elders including Twitter. Since entering the advertising world a year ago, Instagram says there have been 1 billion ad "actions," anything from clicks to follows. But while Instagram itself may not be handling transactions, it's certainly enabling consumers to buy. In some cases, according to its COO Martin Levin, "the value of Instagram ads extends beyond just clicks on mobile phones because such ads have contributed to a 2% increase in sales for many advertisers who placed an ad on the app." What's more, with such a significant amount of online time today devoted to social media, social and mobile commerce are becoming ever more intertwined.
Copycart shopping: inspiring purchases
Today, mobile shopping and social networking go hand in hand. Those users who are heavily involved in social media are also far more likely to be shopping on their mobile with daily Snapchat users the biggest buyers - 89% more likely than the average shopper to have bought on a mobile phone, while Instagram users aren't far behind at 74% more likely than average.
We don't need to look too hard to uncover some of the motivation between these frequent m-shopping trips. Social media feeds are awash with inspirational images and every product imaginable. This means that every day, shoppers are flicking through catalogues-worth of products, styled and validated by their friends as well as an army of digital influencers that comprise their online network. This has given rise to a new way of shopping.
'Copycarting,' the phenomenon of seeing something online and replicating that look with a quick and seamless mobile purchase, means that everywhere, people are able to instantly achieve new styles. No sooner has a friend, online celebrity or brand posted a look worthy of replication, it can be translated to an online store and delivered to your door. The latest trends are always just a click away.
Behavioural psychologist Dr. Linda Papadopoulos has suggested that the ongoing need for approval when buying is a driving force behind social media-driven shopping: "The ease of being able to share a visual representation of the look or style we're trying to achieve makes it not only easier to reach out for validation, but indeed it also fits in with the norms of social networking; where acceptance of our choices is actively sought out."
Driven by social connections, inspiration and support, heavy social media users are by far the biggest mobile shoppers in the UK, being three to four times more likely than average to buy on their phone every day. From fashion to travel, Snapchatters and Instagrammers everywhere are hitting the digital high street and indulging in more than a little retail therapy. According to Criteo data, 35% of daily Facebook users have bought on mobile, compared to just 17% of non-Facebook users on average. The biggest mobile buyers are heavy Snapchat (64% have bought on mobile) and Instagram (56%) users.
Social media is built on a model of engagement, and we're already starting to see how far this could go. Its ability to convert browsers into buyers also highlights the importance of appropriate advertising. Whether it's Facebook or Instagram, nonintrusive and relevant ads in a native context will help advertisers to achieve genuine engagement with consumers in the right places and the right times - leading to better performance and higher conversions.
While the industry vision for a world of Snapchat shopping, Pinterest purchases and F-commerce hasn't quite played out exactly as expected, according to an E-marketer report, nearly two-thirds of all millennial smartphone users will use Instagram. That's a generation sharing and shopping: clearly there's never been a better time to get social!