Social Commerce vs. eCommerce: What are the differences?

Which is better: an online store, or selling through social media?

At first thought, you might question if there is much difference between the two. After all, both e-commerce and social commerce involve buying and selling through an online platform. But in reality, social commerce offers some key differences — and benefits — when compared with traditional online stores.

So, what are these differences, what are the pros of social commerce, and what should you be investing in it? In this blog, we take a closer look at these details. First, let’s begin with some context.

What is e-Commerce?

Think of a brand that sells a service or product, and now imagine visiting their online store. That’s e-commerce. In crude terms, it is simply a high street store on the internet. That represents the business-to-customer (B2C) sector, but e-commerce can also be:

  • Business-to-business (B2B)
  • Customer-to-business (C2B)
  • Customer-to-customer (C2C)
  • Direct-to-customer (D2C)

In the 27 years since the first online sale, e-commerce has grown to £20 trillion globally. Recent events have helped to fuel another boom in online retailing, with e-commerce accounting for almost 30% of all UK retail sales last year.

What is social commerce?

Social commerce is the process of selling products directly on social media. With social commerce, the entire frictionless shopping experience, from product discovery to checkout, takes place on a social media platform.

What is the relationship between social commerce and e-commerce?

Social commerce is part of e-commerce, in that it involves selling products online. And it’s becoming increasingly popular with buyers and brands alike.

Social commerce allows customers to engage, explore and buy products on social media, without ever having to leave the platform. It’s simple, convenient and, crucially, immediate. In short, social commerce is everything that modern consumers crave.

The rise of social commerce is also due to the growing use and popularity of chatbots. Chatbots allow companies to engage meaningfully with customers and offer affordable, round-the-clock customer support. These technologies, together with a solid strategy for conversational marketing, are changing the way brands utilise e-commerce, and opening up new possibilities for retailers.

What are the benefits of social commerce?

So, what are the pros of social selling for customers and retailers? Let’s take a look.

1. It drives engagement between buyers and brands

When it comes to lead generation, the social in social commerce is crucial. Buyers can interact directly with the brands they love, review comments by fellow shoppers, and consult friends on potential purchases (or convince them to buy too). These interactions between customers and retailers form instant, informal focus groups that enhance brand engagement, improve brand loyalty and ultimately increase sales.

Of course, you can also share interactive content from a traditional e-commerce store. But in an environment where an online second is equivalent to a real-world hour, immediacy is key.

2. It’s a rapidly growing trend

This is an area of commerce that is surging. As a society, we are becoming ever more digital and shopping is leading that trend. With 45% of global internet users using social media to search for brand information in 2020, exposure to Millennials and Gen Zedders has never been easier.

In fact, according to recent studies, a third of UK consumers are now making purchases directly via social media. That’s a lot of potential customers at your fingertips!

3. It offers precise audience targeting

Hyper-targeting capability provided by social media is crucial, offering a prime opportunity to pinpoint the appropriate audience for your product with a sniper’s accuracy.

Your adorable, baby-sized hip-brand sneakers can be beamed right to the feeds of cool young dads. They didn’t even know what they were looking for — but now they do.

Social commerce offers the chance to put ready-to-buy products in front of the specific people who would love them, in a way that traditional e-commerce and marketing cannot.

4. It provides customers with a frictionless shopping experience

Social media shopping removes friction from the consumer journey, making it easy to get from discovery to purchase. Unlike traditional online shopping, there are no passwords to remember, customer forms to fill, or credit card details to painstakingly type out. It’s all ready to go.

With social selling, all your customer has to do is see your product, click it, and buy it. It’s as easy as that.

With e-commerce, it’s a longer customer journey with more hoops to jump through. Every click is another opportunity for your customer to change their mind, and a greater chance of losing the sale.

5. It’s proven to increase sales

Social commerce adds value as an efficient customer support tool, where you can directly engage with your audience, answer questions, and assist them in real time. All of this serves your ultimate goal: selling more to happy customers.

Harnessing the power of social marketing builds trust in your brand and increases awareness and audience reach. In fact, 87% of online shoppers say social media networks affect their purchase decisions. As those consumers share and recommend your products with friends, the tills will start ringing.

What are the best platforms for social commerce?

Facebook Shops

Facebook Shops allow you to choose which collections or goods to feature, and customise the interface to suit your brand. When it’s conversion time, customers can head straight to the in-app checkout.

Instagram Shops

The in-app feature of Instagram allows the user to explore and shop the feed. They’re navigated easily to the product detail page, where they can check out without any distractions.

Snapchat Filters & Screenshop

Snapchat is famous for its distinctive, fun computer-generated effects used for instant messaging but now you can create your lenses to which audiences can virtually try your products.

Snapchat has partnered with Shopify to allow brands to create unique filters showcasing their products. Retailers can post pictures in their Snapchat stories, complete with an embedded link to the e-commerce website.Whether it is shoes, clothing, makeup, or even food, businesses can now collaborate with Snapchat and create a unique filter and can also add the product link which will send you to the website.

But that’s not all. Snapchat has also recently announced a new feature called Screenshop, from which you will be able to scan a clothing item and shop directly from the app. The functionality is not available yet but it has been announced earlier this year.

YouTube Shopping

YouTube shopping enables brands to create videos so that users can explore products and buy them there and then. They can even buy as the video continues to play.

Pinterest Shopping


We all know Pinterest for pinning our favourite images to our customisable boards, but did you know that it has a “shop” feature as well? Users can now browse and shop their favourite things, just enter a keyword in the search bar and a “shop” tab will appear right below it. All your shoppable pins can be pinned to one customised board on Pinterest. 
Pinterest’s audience is more than 200 million people, so why not try?

When it comes to online selling, strategy is key

Both e-commerce and social commerce are powerful sales weapons and can be combined or used as a standalone portal. But remember, in today’s evolving commerce world, establishing a purpose-led, long-term marketing strategy is the secret to success.

Whether you choose to sell on social networks or traditional online stores, we can help you build a solid conversational marketing strategy that puts your brand firmly on the digital map.

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