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The Difference Between Social Commerce and Ecommerce

Jose Angelo Gallegos - January 31, 2022

The widespread and rapid growth of the Internet around the world has led to a change in the way people buy and sell goods and services, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Your potential customers are constantly looking for the cheapest and easiest place to buy, from social media to online stores.

Working in the direct selling industry, you have probably come across the terms social commerce and ecommerce. But do you know what they really mean and how they differ from each other? This blog post is ready to help you.

The growth of ecommerce is absolutely astounding, and it’s not slowing down any time soon. The following stats are here to prove it.

  • By the year 2040, it’s estimated that 95% of all purchases will be through ecommerce. (Nasdaq)
  • The ecommerce industry is growing 23% year-over-year, yet 46% of American small businesses still don’t have a website. (BigCommerce)
  • 3 out of 4 consumers buy from their smartphones. (Oberlo)

Speaking of online shopping through mobile phones, the number of people accessing mobile shopping opportunities is growing. And the youngest generations have become at home with social commerce.

According to Forbes, most Gen Z consumers (97%) say they use social media as their top source of shopping inspiration.

Social platforms pay attention to this trend, and they want to occupy a more prominent place in the purchase funnel of goods. Therefore, they strive to make shopping within the platform as easy as possible.

In this blog post, we take a closer look at the key similarities and differences between social commerce and ecommerce. But, first, let’s begin with some context.

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What is Ecommerce?

Have you ever purchased electronics, books, or any other item online instead of going to the brick-and-mortar store? If the answer is yes, you’ve had a glimpse of electronic commerce, in short, ecommerce. Here is a short encyclopedia recap.

According to Shopify, ecommerce refers to the buying and selling of goods or services using the Internet and the transfer of money and data to execute these transactions.

There are also four main types of ecommerce models: business to consumer (B2C), business to business (B2B), consumer to consumer (C2C), and consumer to business (C2B).

What is Social Commerce?

Every day, people scroll through your Instagram feed, catching up on the latest activities of your favorite people and brands. And among all the news, you might see your favorite influencer wearing a stunning necklace that would be a perfect fit for the new dress you bought recently.

Luckily, the image contains a “View Products” tag, which takes you to a product page with pricing and details about the necklace. You tap “Buy Now,” and in a few clicks, you complete the purchase in the app. And within seconds, you go back to scrolling through your feed. 

That is social commerce in action.

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Social commerce is the process of selling products directly on social media. It relates specifically to purchases made directly from a social media platform.

With social commerce, the entire shopping experience — from product discovery and research to the check-out process — takes place right on a social media platform like Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.

It might sound like social media marketing, but it is not. Social media advertising is more about people connecting with people, with brands trying to insert themselves into that conversation. Social commerce is more about people connecting with both people and brands around a natural passion and interest they have for a category or product.

Social commerce is also not social selling. Social selling refers to cultivating relationships on social media to build your sales prospect list.

Here are our social selling resources:

  1. 5 Steps to Hire a Great Social Seller
  2. How to Train Your Team for Social Selling
  3. Social Selling Tools: How To Transform Your Sales

Moreover, social commerce gives small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) the tools to potentially reach and sell to millions of consumers.

Lastly, when we speak about social commerce, we can leave out one massive trend: live shopping. This modern, QVC-style live shopping experience is one of the features Facebook and Instagram rolled out this year. From the customer’s perspective, live shopping is a great way to interact with the influencer who demonstrates certain products or services.

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The Similarities Between Social Commerce and Ecommerce

By this point, you might see some similarities between the two online shopping experiences. Many industry experts consider social commerce as part of ecommerce because it involves selling products online but via social media platforms.

And indeed, there are many similarities between social commerce and ecommerce. Here are some of the significant advantages they have in common:

  • A modern way of communication. Meet your customers where they are: online. Customers are looking for modern, trustworthy communication channels with brands they can relate to and connect with.
  • Lower cost. Unlike physical retail stores, ecommerce and social commerce come at a much lower price as you don’t need to pay for the rent and furnishing of the physical shop. However, you still need to be ready to pay for the website hosting (ecommerce store), the needed inventory, employees, and more. On the other hand, setting up a shop on Facebook or Instagram is free.
  • 24-7 availability. Online stores are always open for business, which means a potential 24-7 income, too. In addition, an ecommerce store allows you to attract those who may have odd work schedules or who don’t have time to shop in person.
  • Scalability. You don’t need to save up for another physical store. Online stores are easier and cheaper to scale. Having a partner that grows as your business grows and scales back during slower times is essential to save you money.
  • Selling internationally. Selling worldwide is a fantastic option because it helps you build your brand a lot faster, broadens your marketplace exponentially, and allows you to see more profit.
  • Customer data & insights. Data is the king. Both ecommerce websites and social media platforms have excellent tracking and analytics to learn more about your customers, where they come from, and what they look at.

Ecommerce and social commerce also share a few disadvantages:

  • Downtime or other technical problems. No one can buy during a website or social media crash. With ecommerce, you can prevent these problems by having a scalable and stable site that can handle increased demands on your web infrastructure. Unfortunately, you cannot do much when it comes to Instagram or Facebook.
  • Security & safety. As online shopping booms, so do cyberattacks. Ecommerce business owners have an advantage: the right technology partner delivers real-time fraud protection and offers overall security based on needed safety standards. With social media, you have to be careful about identity theft.
  • Long shipping times. Customers consider shipping times to be one of the worst disadvantages of ecommerce and social commerce.

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The Differences Between Social Commerce and Ecommerce

Other online experts (for example, Hootsuite) argue that social commerce is not ecommerce, and we should distinguish them.

Although the lines between the two often blur, there are several differences between social commerce and ecommerce:

  • Different online media. The significant difference is the different online channels themselves. Ecommerce refers to a shopping experience via a website or dedicated branded app. Social commerce, by definition, allows the customer to make their purchase within their social media experience.
  • Control & limitations. As a business owner, you own your ecommerce website and solely control the website content. When it comes to social media, you have to follow the platform’s rules and regulations regarding the content you produce – and rely on it.
  • Interactivity. Social commerce is way more interactive than ecommerce. The customers can quickly consult on the purchases with their friends and family members. Social commerce might just be the next best thing for those who miss the social aspect of a day out at the mall.
  • From discovery to purchase. The power of social commerce is in the visuals. Thanks to social commerce, we can discover products we love by brands we may never have heard of before. Once you see your perfect item, you can purchase it immediately. With ecommerce, you have to count on people knowing your brand or finding you online, thanks to excellent SEO.
  • Cart abandonment. See it, click it, buy it. Social media shops remove friction from the consumer journey, making it easy to follow from discovery to purchase. Social commerce removes the drop-off points that can result in abandoned transactions.
  • Competition. Even though social commerce is an emerging trend, it is still relatively new, and there is less competition than in the world of ecommerce.
  • Influencer marketing. Leveraging your micro- and macro-influencers with social commerce couldn’t be easier and more interactive. Influencers on social media lead the way in powering a seamless social shopping journey thanks to their role in live social shopping, affiliate marketing, and sharing authentic product recommendations.

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Key Takeaways

Both ecommerce and social commerce might be exciting opportunities for your direct selling business.

While social commerce has potential, it’s necessary to understand that social media might not be an optimal sales channel for every business. Half of U.S. social network users ages 18 to 34 say they will make at least one social commerce purchase compared to only a third of those ages 55 and older.

With these numbers in mind, business owners must think of their customer bases and target audiences when deciding whether it’s worth investing in a social commerce strategy, too.

We believe that the question isn’t social commerce vs. ecommerce. In fact, infusing a social element into your ecommerce strategy – if it makes sense with your client base – could be just what your company needs to do to re-energize your online business.

If you genuinely want to reach your full ecommerce potential in 2022, we recommend trying our platform DirectScale Ecommerce powered by Rave Retailer.

Using their decades of industry experience, DirectScale offers more than just an ecommerce management platform.

DirectScale took the best of Shopify and built upon it to strengthen and improve the customer experience and the Admin controls specific to our industry needs.

Level up in 2022 with DirectScale Ecommerce!

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