A Primer on Social Shopping Channels

State of Payments | 5 mins

The future is social. 66% of 424 brands questioned by Gartner tested out social commerce features in 2018, and as of 2018, 18% of online shoppers in the US have bought something directly from social media. In our recent ebook, we’ve seen firsthand that the retailers that adapt to this shift first have a massive opportunity.

Social shopping offers a whole new series of channels with an untapped audience for your brand. But how do you ensure you’re making the most out of your social selling efforts by using the right social media platforms to their fullest extent?

  • Before launching a social commerce campaign, you need to be sure that your target demographic is open to shopping online. The audience skews younger, but that’s not the whole story:
  • 67% of millennials say they’d choose shopping online over going to a physical store
    33% of 18- to 24-year-olds say they would like to purchase items directly on Facebook. That figure goes down to 27% on Instagram.
  • Upcoming generations are more prone to impulse buys.
  • Among people ages 54 to 65, only 10% say they would consider shopping online.

Retailers wishing to sell to digitally native consumers are best placed to profit from social commerce. Those selling goods to Gen X and older can win segments of these audiences as well, but should diversify their strategy.

Once you’ve identified the audience you’re looking to target on social, you need to figure out the channels that are best for reaching this audience. Our latest ebook can help you set up your first social commerce campaign and get in on the action in just 30 days, and this is a crucial first step.

Each platform lends itself to a different shopper demographic and product type. Knowing each of their attributes will elevate retailers’ chances of running social commerce successfully.


User Demographic: A healthy 35% of internet users worldwide use Instagram, 71% of whom are under the age of 35.

Social commerce features:

  • Shoppable features allow brands to tag specific products in both posts and Stories. Once they tap, users see detailed product descriptions and related store items. Forty-one percent of apparel, big box and specialty brands on Instagram have tried Shoppable features, according to Gartner.
  • Instagram Checkout, rolled out in March 2019, allows users to complete the purchase journey on Instagram. Billing and shipping information is stored for future purchases, and shoppers can track orders inside the app. Checkout is currently restricted to a handful of brands.

How it works: Instagram shopping is run through the Facebook platform. Retailers with an Instagram business account need to connect their product catalog to Facebook via an ecommerce platform like Shopify. Right now payments are processed through the ecommerce platform, but that could change soon thanks to Instagram’s introduction of a native payments feature.


User Demographic: With the exception of those 65 and older, Facebook is used by a majority of Americans across a wide range of demographic groups. 68% of global internet users say they use Facebook.

Social Commerce Features:

  • Through the Facebook Shops feature, retailers can sell physical items in a virtual store.
  • Facebook Marketplace is more like eBay, with small retailers or non-professionals selling items. However, some items get synced from Shops to Marketplace, which can expand reach.

How it works: Retailers can either set up the store directly in Facebook, or connect their Facebook business profile to an ecommerce platform. With the second option, things like inventory and orders tracking are synced between the two platforms.


User Demographic: Snapchat has a reputation for being a teens-only app. But the stats belie that. It’s true that an impressive 78% of 18- to 24-year-olds in the US use Snapchat, but so do 60% of those under 34, and 45% of people 35-44. A total 27% of internet users worldwide use Snapchat.

Social Commerce Features:

  • Shoppable Snap Ads allow brands to create ads that show several products at once. Once users tap on a product, they get rich product information and more images.
  • Snapchat’s Amazon partnership lets users take a photo of an item or its barcode, and search that product on Amazon. They then click through to the Amazon app to buy.

How it works: Snapchat is an ephemeral content platform—snaps disappear after 24 hours. This complicates things for retailers looking to leverage social commerce. That said, retailers can create a campaign of Snap Ads via Snapchat Ad Manager, send ephemeral ads to target customer segments, and track performance.


User Demographic: Pinterest is sometimes dismissed as a niche platform for people (read, women) arranging weddings or doing crafts. In fact, Pinterest beats Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter and WhatsApp on users, making it the fourth biggest social media platform across the US. Forty-one percent of women say they use the site, as compared to 16% of men. Fifty-five percent of Pinterest users are on the app specifically to find products.

Social Commerce Features:

  • Shop the Look Pins are white dots that appear over certain products. Tap the dots to see product information and shop that same product or similar alternatives.

How it works: Retailers use their Pinterest business profile to either manually tag products from their ecommerce website, or bulk upload and tag products from an ecommerce platform. Customers go through to the retailer’s site to complete the purchase.

Building a strategy around the right channels is a crucial step towards social commerce success. To learn more about how you can get your social commerce program off the ground in just 30 days, download our ebook.