Social shopping has been slow to pick up in the US, but a new report predicts it’s poised for growth as brands use influencers to drive sales.
Social shopping sales in the US are expected to more than double to $99 billion in 2025 from 2022, driven by clothing brands, consumer electronics, and home decor, said a new 39-page report, “The Role of Influencers within Social Commerce”, from UK influencer marketing platform and brand consultancy Influencer Intelligence, citing Accenture.
Social shopping hasn’t caught on in the US and UK with shoppers and advertisers as it has in China, where it hit $400 billion in 2021. Platforms including Facebook and TikTok have hit snags with their social shopping features and in some cases, pulled back.
Still, Influencer Intelligence sees big potential for social commerce, especially if influencers are involved. 
“There’s definitely interest there but there’s quite a bit of caution. Brands want to jump in but part of it is the technology just isn’t there,” said Sarah Penny, Influencer Intelligence’s content and research director.
Here are five key takeaways from the report, which drew from an online survey of 150 marketers that ran in March and April and other expert sources.
Brands have moved more dollars to social commerce as it’s shown results. When influencers are integrated into a social commerce campaign, ROI increases by up to 35%, the report said, citing Ogilvy.
Twenty-nine percent of brands surveyed said they would spend 30% to 49% of their influencer marketing budgets on social commerce by year’s end, up from 23% of brands now.
Wellness brands have driven the trend, with 45% of respondents saying they’ve ramped up spending on social commerce in that category, followed closely by fashion and beauty.
“Where ecommerce to date has been driven by search and often a result of a customer knowing exactly what they want to buy, we’re now seeing a shift away from this where influencer and social commerce are driving discovery of new products,” Lex Bradshaw-Zanger, L’OreĢal UK and Ireland’s chief digital and marketing officer, said in the report. 
Nearly seven in 10 brands said Instagram has been the most successful when it comes to influencer-driven social commerce campaigns. TikTok came in second (favored by four in 10 brands), trailed by Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Snap and Pinterest.
Instagram is also popular with shoppers, with over half of users shopping weekly on the platform, according to the platform’s own survey.
Industry experts pointed to Instagram and TikTok’s powerful algorithms as factors in their success. Instagram is well established and has also made it easy for brands to use its social shopping features, Penny said. 
But TikTok is narrowing the gap. While 61% said Instagram would be a priority going forward, 45% named TikTok, up from 40% who identified it as their most successful platform now.
Brands have found the most success with micro-influencers, those who have 5,000 to 9,999 followers and are seen as having highly loyal consumer bases. 
“I would rather have 10 smaller streamers targeting our audience than one massive audience with no longevity,” Gavin Williams, director of digital and ecommerce at luxury boutique The House of Creed, told Influencer Intelligence. 
Penny said micro-influencers engage often with their followers, which fosters trust.
“You might not be hitting as many customers with them but the conversion you get from that audience is a lot higher because there’s a lot more trust. It’s peer-to-peer recommendation on social,” she said.
One third of brands reported that they intend to invest the most heavily in micro-influencers for social commerce, with a similar share saying they use influencers with over 1 million followers.
Marketers see high potential for social commerce in live video, augmented reality, and virtual influencers. 
Shopify research showed nearly 50% of consumers want to watch product videos before making a purchase. Accordingly, over 60% of marketers plan to prioritize videos with shoppable links in their social commerce strategy, while a third plan to use livestreaming, as Nordstrom and Sephora already do.
Another 36% of respondents predicted influencer marketing campaigns using AR would dominate social commerce strategies, while 30% see AI-powered conversation and personalization as a big trend.
The appeal of virtual influencers, meanwhile, is that they can engage with every customer and their reputation is controllable. 
Alibaba, for one, used its AI influencer Ayayi to promote its Tmall brand, getting 53 million views for the hashtag #AlibabaDigitalEmployeeAYAYI in one week, per the report.
“Generation Z is showing increasing interest in two-dimensional and ACG (Animation, Comics, and Games) content, and a growing number of brands are adopting virtual influencers to entice these fans. In the future, we may also see virtual customer service, 24-hour live broadcasts hosted by virtual anchors, and much more,” Elisa Harca, cofounder and Asia CEO of Red Ant Asia, told Influencer Intelligence.
About one-third of survey respondents (35%) called better ROI info a top trend in social commerce over the next two years.
“From a platform perspective there’s still quite a bit of work to be done in terms of how transactions can be done with the least amount of friction for users,” Penny said. “They need to make the process easier for brands and provide more support on how to execute campaigns.”
Just over half of marketers are using platform-specific metrics like trackable shopping links on Instagram. Also popular were trackable attribution links in influencer content (49%), campaign analytics data provided by the influencer (35%), and discount codes (28%).
For example, British stationery brand Papier told Influencer Intelligence for its back to school campaign in August 2021, it used tracking links and discount codes with more than 100 influencers for the campaign. Papier reported its highest month of revenue from organic traffic following the campaign, with a more than 20% increase in Gen Z customers.
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