In 2015, the gap between social networks and e-commerce is narrowing. Not content with likes, retweets and pins, some of the biggest social media players announced trials of ‘Buy It’ and ‘Shop Now’ buttons as part of the architecture of their platforms this week. Aiming to monetise your clicks with more immediacy than ever, Pinterest and Instagram are the first social networking platforms to put their money where their mouths are. Over at Google, according to Mashable, senior vice-president Omid Kordeastani has confirmed plans to introduce a “buy” button sometime in the future. So why are all your favourite social media platforms so keen to get you shopping – and why now?
Pinterest and Instagram's natural affinity towards images of products – clothes, make-up, shoes – has led many to describe such photo-focused platforms as ‘shopping without the shopping’. Pinterest, for instance, with its pinboard element, is the modern-day version of circling fashion items in magazines with no intention of ever buying them. But if you could buy said item with just one click, perhaps you’d be more likely to. The move is also in these companies’ interests for other reasons. For Pinterest, the ‘Buy’ button offers a direct route to justifying its $11bn valuation; for Instagram, it’s a way to start bringing money in for parent company Facebook. What this means for external start-ups that have already started to fill the e-commerce gap on these platforms – such as LiketoKnowIt, which allows you to shop Instagram feeds – remains to be seen.
The trend towards social shopping among big social networks is on track to disrupt the power of existing e-commerce platforms. Not one to be left behind, however, Net-a-Porter has thrown its hat into the social networking ring. The Net Set, the first social shopping network from the designer label powerhouse, is currently available to test on a first come, first served basis. A one-stop high fashion shop with social networking elements thrown in, it features brand profiles, community interaction and, in a neat twist, replaces Twitter’s ‘Followers/Following’ dynamic by letting you ‘Admire’ others, or be ‘Admired’ yourself. If the app proves successful, we could see sites like FarFetch and Matches opening more social shops alongside their regular sites.
Overall, social shopping is a trend that doesn’t look to be going anywhere in the next few years. Whether social media users will take the bait remains to be seen – for some, efforts to monetise their browsing could prove too blatant to keep them loyal to the platform. On the other hand, apps like the Net Set, which inject social into the shopping experience of an already dedicated community, could prove more successful by adding utility and play to the e-commerce experience. Naturally, however, such apps will have less of a universal reach, and serve a more niche community where commerce is already the aim of the game.
Reported by Claire Healy