Evolving role of social media in E-commerce

By Sanjay KS on March 9, 2022


Social media has played a pivotal role in the digital marketing landscape. It has allowed businesses to scale their efforts in acquiring, retaining, and ultimately upselling customers. Social media has helped businesses improve their online presence, generate leads and increase online traffic. Owing to its commercial success, many e-commerce businesses have included social media in their marketing plans. A well planned and executed social media campaign can help e-commerce business achieve their desired business goals.

Such platforms play an important role in online marketing. They help companies build a stronger web presence, generate leads and increase traffic. A well-structured social media strategy is important for improving the development and growth of an e-commerce business. Social media demonstrates a high yielding tool for marketing and promotion and even selling.

E-commerce businesses identify customers, engage with them, build trust, gain sales opportunities, and deliver quick support. Social media is also a tool for establishing and maintaining brand identity.

Embedding e-commerce in social media is very powerful. It allows customers to discover brands through social content. They find products they would not normally search for on an e-commerce platform.

This process of “discovery through social content” is important for smaller and emerging niche brands. They may not have as much budget available for advertising on an e-commerce platform. The customer journey may be longer, but there is also more time for a brand to create a unique shopping experience. In addition, customers become familiar with the brand, which creates long-term loyalty.

The social elements of social media platforms also make it easier for brands to create interactive campaigns. These campaigns can be shared with others and help new product launches go viral. Discounts for group purchases, interactive contests, and even online games can be part of the discovery process.

Online platforms have removed the limits to how we shop. Now have to browse through entire isles of retail stores to find what we want, we don’t even have to browse through thousands of options on e-commerce websites to choose what we want. Now we can just buy things from Facebook and Instagram without even having to leave the application. The integration of social media and e-commerce platforms has made this happen.

Active users on social media

The first thing that any business looks at is the sheer size of the market. All the social media platforms combined boast a user base of almost 3 billion people. This alone is probably the biggest factor that can influence e-commerce businesses to jump on the social media bandwagons. It is very crucial to understand the volume of people that actively engage with the platform as this relates closely to the business goals. The higher the engagement amongst the users, the higher will be the chances that they indulge themselves in the online shopping experience that an e-commerce platform wants to provide them with.

How does social media influence e-commerce?

Social media has had influence almost everywhere. Because of this, it is important to realize the importance of social media in a business and understand its impact. The e-commerce industry has actually been revolutionized by social media. On social media, people like to share about their lives and this presents a huge opportunity for e-commerce businesses. People share product reviews, their shopping experiences, and their Page | 2 even look for what to buy on social media. Using all of this information, they can create positive word of mouth about their brand which will help them drive their sales.

Trends in Social media

Over the years, social media has brought about considerable changes in the way how e-commerce has approached selling. This has brought about patterns that can be observed in buying behavior and can be capitalized on by e-commerce businesses. These patterns or trends like which social platforms consumers prefer for buying, what kind of


Fig.1 share of e-commerce web traffic by referral channel


content do they like to interact with or how much business does social media actually generate can help e-commerce generate the right kind of insights and make proper business decisions. The top 500 retailers earned $3.3 billion from social shopping in 2014, up 26% from 2013, according to the Internet Retailer’s Social Media 500. That is well ahead of the roughly 16% growth rate for the overall e-commerce market in the US. Social is driving much bigger increases in retail traffic than any other online channel. Social media increased its share of e-commerce referrals by nearly 200% between the first quarters of 2014 and 2015. For retailers to maintain these social gains, they will need to pay special attention to mobile, where social engagement with retail content is still limited. Social media users are 35% less likely to share a brand’s or retailer’s social post on mobile than they are on desktop computers. Facebook continues to grow its lead as the dominant social commerce platform. Facebook accounts for 50% of total social referrals and 64% of total social revenue. The site’s changing demographics could make older consumers a strong target for retailers leveraging the platform. Pinterest is a major social commerce player despite a relatively small user base. The pinning platform drives 16% of social revenue despite an audience 6.5 times smaller than Twitter. New buy and action buttons on retailer posts should make Pinterest an even stronger referral and revenue engine for brands. Twitter is losing its influence for mass-market merchants, but it could still have a role to play among sporting and events marketers, especially for location-based promotions. Recently, NFL and NBA teams have used Twitter to sell game tickets and merchandise. Instagram doesn’t drive significant sales activity for retailers but high-end companies have been leveraging the platform for branding purposes. New Buy buttons on paid posts, as well as increased targeting capabilities, could make the app a more important direct-response driver.

Fig. 2: Graph Showing Increase in Sales with No. of Followers.

From the graph shown in Figure 2, it is clearly visible that the units sold are increasing with respect to the increasing number of followers

Figure 3. Social media advertisement spending in billions


The study conducted by the University of Economics in Bratislava, Faculty of Commerce, shows that there is a significant increase in total investment for advertisement in social media(Fig.3). Compared to 2016, the total ad spent increased by 3.5 times in 2020.

Fig.4 shows social commerce buyers and percentage of change

No one marketing strategy is going to work for every brand—a social shopping experience for athleisure is going to look very different from a campaign for electronics. However, all brands can utilize influencers, consumer calls to action, and user-generated content, to successfully compete in the social commerce market. Thanks to the example set by China, brands remain optimistic about the future of social commerce. According to Insider Intelligence’s Social Commerce 2021 report, social commerce will be a key source of e-commerce growth in the US, and China offers a road map for innovation. Facebook’s massive scale is what drives it to the top of the list brands look to when deciding where to market. According to a June 2020 survey conducted by Bizrate Insights, Facebook had e-commerce values on social platforms more than ever. Some examples are: highest penetration of users that had conducted a purchase on the platform at 18.3%.

E-commerce values social platforms more than ever. Some examples are:

  • Under every product on various e-commerce websites, we can find an option to share the details on social media platforms. It helps to share product details more efficiently among people.

  • E-commerce platforms want to know how people think, their interests etc. In collaboration with search engines like google, yahoo, bing, etc. they collect search data and further shows ads to those people. 

  • After searching for some products on e-commerce websites, later we can find product ads on Facebook, and Instagram like social media.

  • In collaboration with bloggers/tech reviewers etc, some online platforms provide discounts on their products. Subscribers after watching those videos will get a code and apply it in online stores to get a discount.
  • Promotional Offers: Discount & giveaway campaigns can be a very effective e-commerce social media marketing strategy. A perfect example of this is Lenskart which is an e-Commerce company for eye care and spectacles. They have gained a lot of success in their promotional social media campaigns where they provide a free coupon of Rs. 150 on any new registration. One of their campaigns had garnered as many as 1.6 million hits on Facebook and 6000 plus tweets on Twitter, which is no small feat to achieve. Similarly, incorporating polls in your posts will not only magnify engagement but also provide you with deep insight into your audience’s thought process and behavior.

  • Effective communication-Messaging: Facebook Messenger alone has more than 1.3 Billion monthly active users. Once you link it to your website, it can show product updates, changes in prices and more. It allows customers to interact with the brand with speed and efficiency. Since it lends itself to personalization, it is a huge driver for customer engagement. It acts as an effective lead-generation tool.

  • Enhanced Payments: With the introduction of UPI payments and in-app shopping, WhatsApp, for example is positioning itself as the platform of choice for social commerce. E-Commerce players like JioMart in India have started accepting orders through WhatsApp. Although it is resource-intensive, it sure can increase its sheer reach by getting many new consumers in its fold.

Blog: A digital Asset

A blog is a digital asset that not only helps in SEO (Search Engine optimization) but also facilitates sharing thought leadership and engaging content on social media channels. It also serves as a pitch to launch new products and services and can redirect a lot of traffic to your website. Tying your blog with engaging social media posts can string together a path for a smoother buying journey for your customers.

Here are a few inspiring examples of eCommerce companies that made the best use of their blogs:

  • Myntra, India’s major eCommerce portal for fashion and lifestyle, with their thought-provoking articles, has become an opinion leader in
    their industry. Placing product links strategically within their blog has led to a better conversion rate.
  •  Similarly, an emerging eCommerce fin-tech company Grow has built their blog around the most common investment-related doubts
    and conversations, which has greatly amplified its reach.


Social media has changed the way we live our daily lives, including the way we buy things. This is a great opportunity for brands to start thinking about how to improve their position on social media, which is a great platform for brands to get discovered. With consumers spending more time on different types of social media, e-commerce businesses can get help from Instagram influencers to increase their chances of getting discovered by their target audience.

Additionally, with platforms like Shopify, businesses can easily link their online stores with social media sites so that people can buy from them directly through social media. Instagram and Facebook, for example, are constantly updating their features to meet the comfort needs of online buyers.

These social media platforms serve as inspiration channels and offer brands the opportunity to be discovered as people scroll through their feeds. As social media becomes more and more an integral part of our daily lives, its influence on e-commerce trends will only increase. Therefore, brands need to take a shopper-centric approach to their social media strategy. Social media marketing influences both brand building and company sales. Additionally, the tweet feedback helps the client in designing the marketing strategy for their products. Given the technological advancements and changes in consumer behavior, keep an eye on these e-commerce trends in 2022.

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