E-commerce is no longer a “nice-to-have” complement to retail. Consumers who were forced to adopt online shopping due to COVID continue to do so. Shoppers remain hesitant to be in-store, with 57% stating they have yet to return to non-essential retailers because they didn’t feel a need on top of concerns over crowds not taking proper precautions. These changes in purchasing resulted in the e-commerce category taking half of pandemic-driven retail growth. This growth in e-commerce, of course, impacts how we look at shopping altogether. Digital platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Google and YouTube are not only taking notice; they’re taking action.
Where are We Now and Where are We Going?
- Before the coronavirus pandemic, e-commerce encompassed the bulk of overall retail sales growth in the US—representing 56% of overall retail growth last year.
- Per the latest forecasts, due to the pandemic, US total retail sales are set to drop by 10.5% this year—a percentage not seen since 2016. In contrast, e-commerce sales in the US are forecasted to increase by 18%.
- Predictions show US click-and-collect e-commerce sales to grow this year to $58.52 billion, up 60.4% from the initial forecast of a 38.6% growth, highlighting the increased adoption of BOPIS among consumers.
- Future projections show that e-commerce sales may reach as high as $6.5 trillion in 2023.
Social Commerce is the New Normal
Amidst COVID, consumers are flocking to social media for distraction, connection and shopping. Time spent on social media continues to grow, increasing 8.8% YoY to 82 minutes a day and buying activity increasing 25%. Pinterest just announced 400M active monthly users while Facebook’s daily active users are up 12% YoY reaching 2.7B as of June 30. Meanwhile, Snapchat reported a 37% increase in usage amid the lockdowns.
With this increase in media consumption, social is evolving its abilities as a go-to source for purchase:
- The number of Pinners engaging with shopping on Pinterest has increased 44% YoY.
- More than 75 million US social network users ages 14 and older will make at least one purchase from a social channel in 2020, up 17.3% from 2019.
- 60% of Instagram users discover new products on the site, so providing a shoppable solution helps translate inspiration to action.
- Consumers who follow brands on social platforms tend to be more loyal with 9 out of 10 saying they buy from these accounts and have increased their spending with a brand by 12% to 75% this year from 2019.
- 75% of millennials’ purchasing decisions are influenced by social content from brands.
What are Platforms Doing to Elevate the Shopping Experience?
With the amount of shoppable pins increasing 2.5x since last year and driving 2.3x the traffic to retailers, Pinterest added new shoppable features to make it easier for users to discover and purchase products directly from its platform.
- Pinterest announced a new feature, Shopping Spotlights to help curate ideas and buy in one place.
- Partnered with Shopify to help brands maintain their product catalogs and also gain insights via reporting.
- Added a new Shop tab in the search experience within home décor and fashion boards, bringing together shoppable trends.
- Added a Shop tab in its Lens visual search tool, which uses image-recognition technology to identify objects and match with in-stock items at retailers.
Facebook & Instagram
Facebook is focused on providing resources for merchants within its platform, beginning a phased roll out of shops to all businesses globally on Facebook and Instagram Shopping:
- Facebook Shops is a free solution for businesses to host a virtual storefront within Facebook apps to help integrate product catalogues and allow consumers to add to cart on one app and purchase on another later.
- In June, Instagram released a test for shopping tags in post captions to provide another avenue for users to purchase products from brands.
- Their latest update includes Instagram Shop and Facebook Pay. Instagram Shop is an in-app shopping destination where people can discover personalized products and brands they love from across Instagram curated by the @shop team. Facebook Pay provides a seamless, secure way to shop and make donations across all their apps.
Offered via a closed beta, Snapchat’s Brand Profiles give brands a home for permanent content including native commerce stores, AR Lenses, Stores, Highlights and Story posts.
In reaction to Amazon’s growing ad business, Google redesigned their Shopping platform and is focused on making it easier for brands to sell within the interface, providing free listings. Google’s President of Commerce Bill Ready stated, “with more products and stores available for discovery and the option to buy directly on Google or on a retailer’s site, shoppers will have more choice across the board.”
- They announced an update that lowers the cost of doing business and makes it easier for any size retailer to sell directly on Google.
- Partnered with Shopify to aid in inventory, order management and processing.
- Launched Shoploop, their newest venture designed to introduce consumers to new products in a video shopping platform featuring a feed of short-form videos from creators using or talking about products. The current product categories are makeup, skincare, hair and nail.
- The company’s next step is to make “Buy on Google” checkout commission-free.
YouTube is now testing a list of products underneath a playing shopping ad. The real estate beneath a video as it plays is replaced with a feed of products and a call-to-action to Shop Now. Even post ad, users can return to the storefront at any time through a top ad banner while their main video plays.
Why Should These Changes Matter for Brands and Retailers?
E-commerce is here to stay. Digital platforms adapted quickly throughout COVID to offer new ways for brands to reach consumers and drive purchase seamlessly. These new user experiences not only provide a frictionless experience, they also improve brands’ ability to measure and attribute sales back to media. Doing so, undoubtedly, helps advertisers understand their consumers and inform future campaigns.