For most people, shopping is and has always been a highly social experience. When you go shopping, you can model clothes for your friends to get their advice before making a purchase. When you shop online though, how do you get that feedback and valuable social experience?

The answer lies in the trend that has been taking over the ecommerce world: social commerce. Brands are realizing that customers are looking to more and more channels for the opportunity to shop. Broadly defined as the use of social networking sites to promote and sell products, social commerce encompasses everything from branded hashtags to curated embedded stores on social media sites.

With the ability to share products you love on your personal feed, social commerce has made scrolling on Facebook or Instagram just as social as a trip to the mall.

How social commerce can enhance your brand loyalty

Social commerce is the perfect way to move your customers through the consumer loyalty process and turn them into brand advocates, and there are many small businesses taking big steps in creating loyal customers with social commerce.

Itzy Ritzy’s Instagram shopping

One brand that understands the importance of creating a strong brand community is Itzy Ritzy. This chic baby product brand has identified their customer base and leveraged one of the strongest communities there is: moms. Through their social media, they’ve used lifestyle marketing to create real emotional connections with users. After all, there are few things that make people (especially moms) smile like pictures of babies.

social commerce - itzy ritzy instagram overlap-min

As a social brand, Itzy Ritzy often features pictures from their customers and influencers on their Instagram feed. With the majority of these pictures featuring products, Itzy Ritzy is able to tag their products to enable other users to shop directly from the photo. This type of lifestyle marketing creates a form of social proof by demonstrating how real customers are actually using the products, as opposed to just paid advertisements. All of these tagged products are then available to users on the shopping tab on Itzy Ritzy’s account for a seamless shopping experience.

social commerce - #itzyritzyforthewin overlap

In order to really make their social media as social as possible, Itzy Ritzy also makes use of a few other Instagram tools. First, they allow users to save tagged products to their own wish lists stored on the user’s personal account. This serves as a reminder of the brand even after leaving their profile or scrolling past their pictures. Users can also share these product posts to their own stories or through private messages to their friends, allowing for an even more social experience.

Second, Itzy Ritzy has made use of their own branded hashtag, #itzyritzyforthewin. With over 5000 posts, this is another great place for customers to discover posts from Itzy Ritzy themselves, as well as their community of loyal customers and shop for products right in-app.

Instagram is a powerful tool that helps you get the most out of your strong brand community.

Shine On’s Facebook store

With a strong idea of their ideal customer in mind, Shine On made use of their Facebook store to sell their apparel. As a brand that strives for building a supportive community above anything else, Facebook serves as the perfect social network for them.

social commerce - Shine On search engine result

Their commitment to community is such a core part of their brand that they’ve even made it clear in their title and description on search engines. With phrases like “more than just a women’s online fashion store” and references to their Facebook VIP group, Shine On instantly lets customers know that they’re all about bringing like-minded customers together for encouragement and advice.

social commerce - Shine On facebook overlap

With such a strong Facebook network, it only makes sense for Shine On to leverage their Facebook store. Their community members can go to the Shine On page and navigate to the “Shop” tab to browse all of their products as if they were actually on their website without leaving Facebook. Just like with products on any ecommerce website, customers can click an image to view more details like the product specs, price, and images. Users are even able to checkout on Shine On’s site while still on Facebook.

social commerce - shineon tagged product facebook post

Just like on Instagram, brands can tag products featured in their posts to make them shoppable as Shine On has done with this top and skirt. What sets Facebook shopping apart from regular ecommerce shopping is the ability to easily like, comment, and share the post just like any other Facebook post. This feature coupled with the fact that Shine On’s Facebook store offers a curated selection of products rather than their entire selection is powerful in sparking interest in new users to drive them to their website to discover even more products.

With such a strong Facebook community, sharing their products was the right next step for Shine On and can be for your small business too.

Determining the “right” social commerce strategy for your brand might even boil down to the industry you operate in. For example, a brand like The Balm in the cosmetics industry relies on visual marketing and reviews more than anything else to create customer loyalty. This is why combining user-generated content like reviews and customer photos with their Instagram feed was the perfect social commerce strategy for them.

With the help of Okendo and Foursixty, The Balm is able to feature a custom shoppable gallery on their website made up of photos and videos from Instagram with photos from customer reviews. This helps build your community in the opposite (but just as valuable) way as the previous two strategies. Instead of driving traffic to your website from your social media, this helps build your social media community by encouraging people to follow your Instagram after discovering it on your website.

social commerce - the balm instagram overlap

Giving their customers the chance to “Shop @TheBalm”, this brand has added value to their customer journey at every step. Customers can view the tagged products directly in the gallery and add them to their cart right in the image viewer. They can also click the product to see more information on the product page, ultimately shortening their journey for a better user experience.

By leveraging third-party app integrations, The Balm was easily able to bring a social aspect to their website while maintaining its brand image with customizable themes, headings, and layouts.

In an industry that depends on social proof for validation and inspiration, making your social channels available in more than one place can be a game-changer in creating brand loyalty.

Build brand loyalty with social commerce

Connecting with your customers on social media, where they already spend most of their online time, is one of the best ways to retain them. Allowing your loyal customers to share your products on their social media engages new users, and enhancing their customer experience through interactive online brand communities creates valuable engagement. And most importantly - making your products available where your customers’ desires retains them.

Whether you decide to create embedded Facebook or Instagram stores like Shine On or Itzy Ritzy or you opt for on-site galleries like The Balm, it’s time to start considering social commerce.

Social commerce is the best way to maintain the social element of shopping and turn your customers' “likes” into purchases.