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21 November 2022

Social commerce and social shopping: what are the differences?

Social commerce and social shopping may sound similar, but they refer to two different phenomena.

There is a lot of buzz around social commerce and social shopping lately. But what do these terms actually mean? And what are the differences between them?

What is social commerce?

Social commerceconsists of an evolution of online commerce that uses social networks to reach customers, increase their participation, improve their shopping experience, and, of course, sell products and services. 

Through social media platforms, brands can connect with potential and current customers and promote and sell products or services. This can be done in a number of ways, such as through social media ads, posts, and stories; influencer marketing; and user-generated content (UGC).

Some examples of social commerce platforms are Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Pinterest. These platforms allow companies to showcase their products or services in a visually appealing way, and reach a large audience of potential customers.

The goal is customer satisfaction through engagement on social networks. This is also possible thanks to the insights that the platforms make available and which allow companies to know their target audience and create a tailor-made customer experience.

When a customer is satisfied with a product/service or shopping experience they will be prompted to leave a positive review, write a comment or share their experience. This affects how other users on the social network perceive the brand and its product/service. This phenomenon becomes even stronger if the feedback comes from an Influencer.

Main benefits of social commerce:

  • ​​​Reach a large audience of potential customers,
  • Improved customer satisfaction levels,
  • Greater customer engagement,
  • Increased brand awareness and visibility,
  • Greater insight into target audiences.

Main challenges of social commerce:

  • Social media platforms are constantly changing, which can make it difficult to keep up,
  • Not all social media platforms are suitable for every business or product,
  • Companies need to invest in paid advertising to reach their target audience.

What is social shopping?

Social shopping is a new mode of online shopping, where a user engages other people in their shopping experience.

There are five core types of social shopping:

  • Group shopping sites: these sites allow users to buy products and services together, usually at a discounted price. A good example of this is Groupon.
  • Shopping communities: these are online communities where users can ask for product recommendations, give opinions on products and find deals. An example is Slickdeals.
  • Recommendation engines: these are sites that use algorithms to suggest products to users based on their previous behaviour. They also allow users to ask other shoppers for advice about products. Amazon is a good example.
  • Shopping Marketplaces: they have typical characteristics of both e-commerce and search engines. They bring together independent sellers and buyers, giving them a way to communicate. An example is Etsy.
  • Shared Shopping: these are collaborative shopping groups in which users share shopping lists, and communicate in real-time among themselves and with the retailers. The best example is Wunderlist.

Main benefits of social shopping:

  • Group discounted prices,
  • Access to deals and recommendations,
  • Possibility of real-time communication with other shoppers and retailers,
  • Improved user experience.

Main challenges of social shopping:

  • Lack of trust: since social shopping is fairly new, some users may not trust it yet,
  • Difficulty in finding the right people to connect with: as with any social platform, it can be difficult to find people who will actually be interested,
  • Time commitment: social shopping requires more time and effort than traditional online shopping, as it involves connecting with other people and participating in conversations.

Differences between social commerce and social shopping

Social commerce

  • is focused on selling products or services,
  • social commerce platforms are typically used by companies,
  • generally requires more investment from companies,
  • focuses on the use of social networks to reach potential customers and promote and sell products,
  • social commerce platforms allow companies to showcase products or services in a visually appealing way, and reach a large audience of potential customers,
  • the goal of social commerce is customer satisfaction through their involvement on social networks, 
  • social commerce platforms make use of social media ads, posts, and stories; influencer marketing; and user-generated content (UGC) to sell products.

Social shopping

  • is focused on researching and purchasing products or services,
  • social shopping platforms are typically used by consumers,
  • social shopping platforms are usually free for consumers to use,
  • is a new mode of online shopping where users engage other people in their shopping experience,
  • social shopping platforms allow users to buy products and services together, usually at a discounted price,
  • the goal of social shopping is to allow users to engage other people in their shopping experience, social shopping platforms allow users to ask for product recommendations, give opinions on products and find deals.

Social commerce vs Social shopping

chart with differences recap

So, which one should you choose for your business? 

As you can see, social commerce and social shopping are two closely related concepts, but with some important differences. In short, social commerce focuses on the use of social media platforms to reach customers and promote and sell products or services. Social shopping, on the other hand, is a new way of shopping with other people.

Which one to use depends on your business goals. If you want to reach a large audience of potential customers and promote selling, social commerce is a good option. If you're looking to improve the shopping experience for your customers and engage with them in a more personal way, social shopping may be a better fit.

Obviously, one does not exclude the other. On the contrary, being present on both social commerce platforms and social shopping platforms allows you to create an advanced customer experience and to intercept potential customers throughout their entire customer journey.

Some tips to leverage social commerce and social shopping

If you want to take advantage of social commerce and social shopping you should consider to:

  • Create a strategy: as with any marketing effort, it's important to create a strategy before getting started. This will help you determine your goals, target audience, and which platform(s) to use.
  • Produce quality content: you need to produce quality content that will appeal to your target audience and encourage them to engage with your brand.
  • Build a community: social shopping is all about building a community of users who are interested in what you're selling. This can be done by creating a group or page on a social platform, participating in relevant online conversations, and offering incentives for users to join your community.
  • Provide customer service: since social shopping requires more interaction with customers, it's important to provide good customer service. This includes responding to questions and concerns in a timely manner, as well as addressing any negative feedback. One way to do it is by chatbot on your social network profiles.