From e-commerce to s-commerce…

In the last few years, e-commerce has been taking more and more place, but recently, s-commerce (Social Media Commerce) has developed itself, even more so than it has gained 2% of online salesAccording to eMarketer, social media commerce revenue grew from $5 billion in 2011 to over $30 billion in 2015, and predicted a rise to $491.5 billion by 2018. S-commerce was therefore already important for brands as it was representing a massive source of indirect sales. To make the most of this new trend, social media jumped on the idea of “Buy Buttons” as it could represent the future of e-commerce.

So, what are “Buy Buttons” ? They are a way for social media users to buy a product from a retailer without leaving the social network, just clicking on a simple button. The most famous social medias jumped on the trend, such as Facebook (Buy Now), Twitter, Instagram (Shop Now), Pinterest (Buyable Pins), Tumblr, and Youtube too.


Indeed, doing s-commerce can be a real advantage for companies in the digital era. It’s a way to capitalise on the constantly growing number of social media users, therefore targeting a massive audience as the shopping experience is really easy, using just a smartphone. Retailers often have to cope with a high rate of cart abandonment on mobile devices, just because customers found the checkout process too long and not always clear. This is where buy buttons are particularly powerful: they offer a much more convenient solution and  dramatically shorten the payment process, making the shopping experience more enjoyable. Companies can then expect an increase of sales.

The ways to make the most of this trend are endless, for example, Facebook, introduced the idea of launching an automated customer service, at their F8 conference of July 2016.

Pinterest is another example, indeed, 87% of its users use the app when they research a product to buy, but 25% say they didn’t make a purchase in the end because it was too long to go visit the company’s website to search for the product. To respond to that, Pinterest then launched their Buyable Pins to let the users buy product directly from the app.


Another recent example would be Instagram. According to a study, 60% of their users learn about products or services on the app and, 75% take action (go to the websites, tell a friend, do research, etc) after having seen it on Instagram. These numbers pushed the app to try the “Buy Buttons” too. In cooperation with 20 US based brands (Kate Spade, J.Crew, Macy’s, etc), Instagram is going to test the feature but only in the US and for Apple users for now, where the customers won’t need to leave the app to make a purchase thanks to an in-app browser. If the test is successful, the feature will expand to other countries as well as Android users.

How does it work then? The brands will tag a product in the pictures, as someone would tag a friend. To get more information, users would need to use the “Tap to view product” function. Then, once the customer has selected a product, the in-app browser will direct him or her to a page where a “Shop Now” button would be displayed. As it is image-based, it is more amenable to inspire people to buy products than the “Buy Button” of Facebook or Twitter, making the change that would make the feature more successful.

To illustrate the explanation →


Indeed, several social media failed at implementing “Buy Buttons”Sales generated by “Buy Buttons” are still very low and most companies don’t even publically release the shares related to them.

The first reason is that unlike e-commerce platforms such as Amazon or eBay, social media are unable to create store inventories. Users are offered only a very limited number of products, meaning that there’s a significant gap between what users see and are eager to buy, and what is actually shoppable.

The second reason is probably the biggest explanation. Some argue that consumers are not ready to change their behavior, they are actually satisfied enough with the current situation and feel comfortable with buying products directly on a company website or on e-commerce sites, but most importantly, they don’t trust social media for what relates to their money, because for them it’s more about having fun and getting information. According to a survey done by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, only 35% of millennials said they were likely to use a “Buy Button” on Facebook, same for Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.

To finish, we can say that converting “likes” and “hearts” into “buys” is more than a technological challenge and requires a change in the behaviour of consumers and marketers. Therefore, we can predict that it will represent an important change for social media in the next month, even years.

And you, what do you think about buying online direclty on social media? Would you feel comfortable with that? Share your opinion in a comment!

Violaine Marty
Quiterie Mertian de Muller
Benjamin Pianet
Kourech Sadakaly



2 thoughts on “From e-commerce to s-commerce…

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