Social shopping: Online retail's future?

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From Facebook to Google+, social media channels are constantly updating their functionality and offering, looking to keep us locked-in to their network for activities that go well beyond simply communicating with other users. And now a new revolution is afoot, one that can help increase profitability for brands trading online.
As we explained on the Smoking Gun blog last week, ‘social shopping’ is here, and could have a huge impact on the way people make purchasing decisions via the internet. By allowing users to simply click a ‘buy it now’ button on an image of a product, the idea is that consumers will no longer need to follow the breadcrumb trail to an external online shopping site when they see a picture of something they want. Instead, the retail experience is contained within the social network itself.
This is certainly good news for businesses. A key obstacle in securing sales through digital mediums has always been the potential for people to get bored in the search for a product, or forget about an item they saw in a news feed, before they hit the jackpot and find a site that’s actually selling it. By reducing the risk of that happening there’s a good chance you’ll improve on the likelihood that the impulse to buy will be followed through.
Interested in taking advantage? Have a look at the lowdown of what networks are offering social shopping…
Pinterest Buyable Pins
Launched last month, in many ways this is the ultimate social shopping offering. Pinterest is the interest-led image sharing site, and now retailers can add a buy it button to any picture of a product. A consumer then just needs to submit their credit card or Apple Pay details, and the purchase is made. According to research by Millward Brown, 95% of active users say they would buy a product in this way, with 87% claiming to have bought something in the past because of Pinterest.
Best for: Anything with a strong visual hook, for example clothing brands, food companies sharing recipe ideas, accessories.
Facebook and Shopify 
After ongoing experiments with individual merchants, Facebook has signed a deal with online retail emporium Shopify, which has sellers ranging from one man band’s to global brands, creating a new buy it button that can be included on any image of a product, providing the store has a Shopify presence. The result being that users stay on Facebook even when shopping, and retailers don’t have to rely on consumers finding their products elsewhere online.
Best for: With 165,000 active stores, and $8billion in annual global sales, there’s no end to what’s on offer through Shopify, although the focus is on smaller-value purchases- from clothing to electronics.
Instagram Shop Now
The most recent social shopping launch is on Instagram, which allows users to showcase their own mobile photos to others in their network. Whereas third party apps previously let people to click on a product and be redirected to a retailer’s homepage, in the same way as Pinterest’s Buyable Pins now when someone sees a picture of something they want it’s a simple case of clicking ‘Shop Now’, imputing payment details, and waiting for the product to arrive at their door.
Best for: Again visual hooks are key here, so think jewelry, art, clothes, accessories.