The Rise of the Social Shopper

Opinion: It is most effective when tailored to the platform in question

The U.K. is the largest ecommerce market in Europe - Credit by Bet_Noire/iStock

Social media platforms are well on their way to becoming established channels for ecommerce, especially when it comes to brand building and engaging customers for retailers.

The U.K. is the largest ecommerce market in Europe, representing almost one-third of all European online purchases and boasting a rapidly growing mobile commerce market as U.K. shoppers look to Facebook and Instagram for their next online purchases.

Indeed, the rise of social shopping is intrinsically tied to the explosive growth of mobile devices. Consumers today, especially the younger generation, increasingly connect to people and information via mobile applications rather than through traditional web browsers—opting to read the news, talk with friends and shop on apps.

Worldpay research found that 71 percent of shoppers globally use mobile apps to make purchases, and the leading reasons for this are speed and simplicity.

With consumers increasingly interacting with the online world via mobile phones and social apps, it’s now becoming imperative for brands to leverage the power of social platforms. Retailers today need a powerful strategy to drive purchase opportunities via social, or they will be left behind.

Social shopping is most effective when it’s tailored to the platform in question. Here’s a quick glance at what social shopping looks like across five of the most popular social networking sites in the U.K.


Instagram recently launched IGTV, which enables long-form video capabilities—yet another sign that Instagram is well on its way to becoming an established ecommerce channel. By supporting its users with the ability to create and watch full-length videos optimized for mobile viewing, Instagram is opening up new ways to showcase merchandise consumers want.

For brands, this is an important opportunity to engage with potential customers via a social platform. Instagrammers are already used to the idea of purchasing goods online, and the potential of delivering video ads that link directly to products can only increase their inclination to buy.


A pioneer in social shopping, Facebook has always pointed the way forward in how to integrate ads, retail opportunities and social moments in one place. One key example is the Facebook Store app, which merchants can set up with just a few clicks and enable users to purchase products without ever leaving the Facebook app.

This kind of integrated social, shopping and payment experience is key, as Worldpay data shows that 56 percent of U.K. consumers have abandoned their online shopping carts in the past 12 months. With frictionless browsing, buying and payments on a social platform like Facebook, which consumers know and love, brands will have a better chance of conversion.

Facebook Messenger

While technically a subset of Facebook, retailers are jumping on the bandwagon by looking at Messenger as its own social channel with its own unique opportunities for social commerce. When it comes to brands targeting customers through bots, we know that 72 percent of global consumers would be comfortable with a bot acting on their behalf to book or pay for an item.

Messenger helps brands use bots to communicate with customers and get sales via the buy button integrated into the app. Bots also offer the convenience of customer-service chat, information regarding orders and resolving issues while interacting with customers in real time. Brands can even pay to deliver sponsored ads to users—as long as they’ve engaged with the brand in the past. Removing the friction between communicating and shopping, Messenger is well on its way to driving a new wave of conversational commerce.


After introducing a series of augmented reality tools in late 2017, Snapchat is again making a big bet on the future of AR and mobile with a new shoppable AR experience by letting retailers add a button onto AR lenses running on a Snap.

This feature has the ability to complete a number of actions, including directing users to retailers’ online stores or apps where they can purchase the products in one click.

As Snapchat continues to explore the possibility of an AR dressing room experience, retailers will no doubt be watching closely to see what it will offer next.


Launched in 2017, Pinterest’s Shop the Look feature enables shoppers to buy products in the visuals that they Pin. Using computer vision and human curation to make recommendations, Pins will have dots attached to specific items within a Pin, enabling users to click on each element to find related Buyable Pins and purchase that item straight away.

Pinterest users are open to discovering new items, whether it’s what to wear at work, a gym kit or decorating their dream home. Although shoppers may not know exactly what they’re looking for, they can tap the dots to view and shop products featured in the Pin. Being able to provide a frictionless path to purchase when a product discovery is made creates a unique opportunity where the needs of brands and pinners are aligned.

As the future of online retail evolves, social networks will no doubt continue to play an important role in how we shop online. The prospect of brands jumping on trends such as voice and conversational commerce and incorporating this into the future in-app shopping experience is certainly exciting—particularly if this helps reduce cart abandonment.

Brands wishing to capitalize on the possibilities of social shopping must remember two key values: fun and convenience. When browsing and buying feel like an enjoyable, natural extension of social media, consumers will be more likely to complete their purchase and come back for more.

Maria Prados is vice president of global retail and global enterprise ecommerce at secure payment processing platform Worldpay.