What brands, creators think of Instagram, YouTube Social Shopping Push

  • At the end of 2021, industry insiders predicted that 2022 would be the year of social shopping in the United States.
  • Social media platforms have launched a number of new shopping features for creators and brands.
  • But over the past half year, the platforms have had mixed reactions to their efforts.

2022 was supposed to be the year of social shopping in the United States.

Platforms from Instagram to Pinterest have revamped and added features like in-app storefronts, native affiliate marketing tools and live shopping technologies in hopes of becoming America’s new malls . Some industry insiders have predicted these bets will pay off, with eMarketer forecasting 24.9% year-over-year growth in social commerce in the US, pushing the market past $36.6 billion. at $45.7 billion.

But over the past half year, the platforms have had mixed reactions from creators, marketers and consumers.

Some influencers testing Amazon’s live shopping feature — several of whom are abandoning it altogether — said they struggled to find an audience on the platform. Advertisers on TikTok and YouTube told Insider that shopping tools have yet to convert into meaningful sales. And TikTok’s experiment with UK shopping fell apart earlier this year after the company reportedly set unrealistic sales targets, raising questions about whether it will be able to pull off e-commerce. in the United States, according to a June Financial Times report.

But the problem may go beyond any platform and feature – creators and consumers in the US may simply not be ready for social shopping.

“Consumers don’t think, ‘I’m going to go to TikTok to make a social commerce purchase,'” said Ian Whittaker, chief executive of media consultancy Liberty Sky Advisors.

While 45% of consumers say social media influences their purchases, only 11% bought directly through social media, according to a May 2022 McKinsey report.

“The industry is trying to run before it can walk,” said Sarah Penny, director of content and research at influencer marketing platform Influencer Intelligence. “It’s still quite alien to a lot of audiences.”

US tech platforms want to replicate the success of social shopping in Asia

The concept of using social media to make purchases is not new.

For years, startups like LTK (formerly RewardStyle) and MagicLinks have been in the social shopping game, primarily through affiliate programs that pay creators commissions based on the sales they generate through posts. on social networks.

More recently, platforms like Instagram and TikTok have taken steps to own the shopping process by adding integrated checkout features, product tagging, and other e-commerce tools.

They all hope to replicate the success of tech companies in China and Southeast Asia, where social shopping accounted for nearly half of the $109 billion e-commerce market in 2020, and poach businesses from startups across the country. space.

Securing a reduction in e-commerce sales could also be key for companies like Meta Platforms whose advertising business has been hit following Apple’s iOS privacy changes.

Social platforms are hungry for buyers, but U.S. consumers aren’t showing up yet

While social shopping is still in its infancy in the US and consumer appetites may change in the coming years, platforms face a series of headwinds as they seek to mainstream in-app purchases , experts told Insider.

One of the reasons is the technology itself, which is different in Asia and the United States. Chinese consumers are used to unique apps such as WeChat, sometimes referred to as “super apps”, which allow users to perform various tasks such as sending messages, ordering food and calling cars.

Executives from companies like Snapchat-maker Snap Inc. have expressed interest in creating great apps, and Instagram’s former product manager for Instagram Shopping told Insider in November 2021 that the company wants to create ” an ecosystem, rather than a feature”.

But US tech companies have yet to create a super app, which could hold them back from social shopping.

“Consumers in Western markets, when they want to buy something, they think of specialty sites,” Whittaker said. “In places like Russia and China, they are more used to buying all their necessities through a particular social site.”

Another hurdle could be the willingness of US consumers to hand over payment information to big tech platforms, some of which have failed to protect user data in the past.

“There are still a lot of people who don’t want their credit cards stored online in multiple places,” said marketing strategist Sonia Elyss.

Additionally, the growth of e-commerce in the United States at the height of the pandemic has created unrealistic expectations for social shopping.

According to the McKinsey report, in-store purchases grew by 8% year-over-year in March 2022, compared to around 5% at the start of 2021. Meanwhile, e-commerce growth has fallen since the peak of the pandemic.

“Not as many people will flood in to shop [online] as we might have wanted when we were in the middle of the pandemic and seeing how many people were shopping from home,” Elyss said. “Now we’re just in a completely different economic climate, and I think that’s what’s slowed down the plot development.”

Advertisers, for their part, are waiting for wider adoption before buying into the trend. Some pointed to the fact that the majority of social shopping tools have only recently been launched or are still under construction or testing.

This is true for most platforms, like YouTube, where some existing shopping features are only available to a closed group of creators, and TikTok, which is testing a dedicated “Shop” tab in some markets, but not in the US. United.

Advertisers who have tested the social shopping tools said they have not yet been able to prove that the tools drive sales, making them hesitant to spend more money on them.

For creators, the integration of social shopping tools is helpful, but some worry that the focus on shopping will alienate their audience.

Anna Crollman, creator and blogger, said there was frustration that creators were seen as salespeople.

“You’re constantly recommending, you’re constantly saying, ‘Buy, buy, buy,'” she said. “Sometimes I don’t want there to be a connection, I don’t want people to buy something, I just want you to feel good and get a resource.”

Insider spoke to 25 marketers, brands and creators to get their thoughts on social shopping.

Here’s what features the platforms introduced in 2022 and how industry insiders are responding. The platforms are listed in alphabetical order.

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