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Shopify Aims to Make Social Media ‘Digital Main Street’

Shopify’s collaboration with TikTok to add shopping features to the video-sharing app, announced last month, came as no surprise to most industry watchers, tying one of the largest commerce platforms with one of the fastest-growing social media sites.

“Creators are paving the way for a new kind of entrepreneurship where content, community and commerce are key,” Harley Finkelstein, president of Shopify, said in a statement. “By enabling new in-app shopping experiences and product discovery on TikTok for the first time, Shopify is powering the creator economy on one of the fastest-growing social and entertainment platforms in the world.”

Read more: Shopify Launches TikTok In-App Shopping

Amir Kabbara, director of product at Shopify, told PYMNTS that social commerce “plays an important role in the success of our merchants,” with TikTok among the most vital platforms because of the number of users it has and the speed of its growth. From February 2020 to February 2021, Shopify saw 76% growth in its social commerce channels, with TikTok the fastest growing. Additionally, research conducted by Shopify found that 54% of consumers ages 18 to 34 discovered brands on social media and 28% made purchases.

PYMNTS Connected Economy data also show that 44% of consumers who are highly connected in their social engagement are also highly connected shoppers. However, only 16% of consumers say they’re highly connected socially, and only 23% of those people say they’re also highly connected shoppers, reflecting one of the biggest opportunities for growth in the connected economy.

“Merchants in the pilot are excited about the opportunity to fully tap into the reach and scale of TikTok,” Kabbara said.

The partnership is also in line with Shopify’s goal of ushering in “a new era of social commerce in which social media platforms make up the digital main street,” Kabbara said.

“With the launch of TikTok Shopping, we’re helping merchants and creators deepen their relationships with consumers on one of the world’s fastest-growing entertainment platforms through in-app shopping and organic product discovery,” he told PYMNTS.

Related: Commerce Is Fast Becoming The New Battleground For Social Media Giants

Social media firms have increasingly been placing their bets on increasing interest in social commerce, with Twitter last month investing in new monetization opportunities for users and Pinterest earlier this year creating “shoppable pins” on its platform. Last week, Facebook also rolled out a new set of online shopping tools meant to help businesses more easily connect with consumers on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The Future of Commerce

Kabbara noted that Shopify also expects that working with TikTok will have “a monumental impact on the creator economy,” and the company views creators “as the next generation of merchants.”

“Through our partnership, we’re empowering creators on the platform — even those without large followings — to integrate commerce into that content in a way that feels very authentic to TikTok, so that they can monetize their presence organically,” Kabbara said.

Even traditionally brick-and-mortar retailers have seen opportunity in social commerce, with some store associates now being given the ability to create short product recommendation videos for retailers’ digital platforms. Adam Levene, founder of social commerce platform HERO, told PYMNTS last month that this reduces downtime for employees and can help expand the brand’s presence.

“What that does is essentially turn stores into studios and store associates into content creators,” Levene said. “I think this is a really exciting space.”

Walmart also recently partnered with media giant Meredith Corp. to create shoppable ads and an integration with Allrecipes content on TikTok, as well as a “shoppable bookazine” of 30-minute meals.

Kabbara said, though, that this is also just the beginning of social commerce in the U.S. “Even with the incredible growth we’ve seen in merchants adopting social commerce channels on Shopify, there is still potential to be realized,” he said. In Asia, for example, “there’s a greater sense of experimentation in commerce, both from consumers and brands.” According to eMarketer, social commerce in the U.S. is projected to hit over $36 billion this year; in China, it’s expected to be over $351 billion.

“In the West, we’ve been slower to adopt, but we see Shopify’s role — as the infrastructure of commerce across the internet — to be a leader in bringing that sense of experimentation to commerce globally, and to give our merchants the ability to meet their consumers wherever they are,” Kabbara said.

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