Jun 17, 2020
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UK social shopping surged in lockdown, huge potential if checkout options added

Jun 17, 2020

Social shopping has received a boost from the lockdown with British consumers buying more goods than ever via Facebook, Instagram and Google Shopping.

Social shopping has huge UK potential

But that boost is just the latest development in a long-tern trend that has meant social commerce (sales of products discovered on social media) has risen 95% since 2017, a ParcelHero report says.

The delivery specialist is convinced that this will accelerate even now that shops are beginning to reopen as the social aspect of shopping remains off the agenda for physical stores due to ongoing social distancing and other security measures.

And it thinks that “potential growth is unlimited if UK platforms introduce checkouts”.

ParcelHero’s latest research found 16% of UK consumers had bought items via social media at the beginning of the year, and that figure has risen to 20% during lockdown. 

Its Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks, said that by the end of the year, nearly 11 million British shoppers will have spent money after first seeing a product on social media. 

That figure comes despite one key factor suppressing social shopping — the fact that, unlike the US, most platforms still don’t have a checkout in the UK.

Understandably, social shopping is more popular among younger consumers and the company said that almost 30% of millennials and one in four Gen Z have bought an item online during lockdown that they first saw on social media. 

“Instagram, Facebook, Google and You Tube have all inspired purchases, often after viewing posts from bloggers, celebrities and friends,” Jinks added.

Research in December 2019 from Curalate had shown a 79% increase in UK shoppers discovering new products on social media compared with 2017, so the new 95% figure is a marked rise. As of December last year, Instagram alone enjoyed a 64% increase in UK surfers using the platform to find shopping inspiration. 

“We believe this growth continued exponentially as lockdown dragged on this year,” Jinks said.

But he added that “it’s jaw-droppingly hard to believe, but there’s still no checkout on Instagram here in Britain, nor is there on Facebook Pay. Also, in another slap in the face to UK stores venturing into social media selling, Google continues to charge retailers to place their products on the Google Shopping search page here in the UK, despite dropping these charges in the USA”.

Yet 24% of UK businesses were selling products via social media at the beginning of the year and ParcelHero thinks “that’s likely to have risen to around 30% following lockdown as desperate sellers sought new ways to reach consumers”.

The development of new technology that works to make social commerce even more sociable should help. ParcelHero cited the new Squadded Shopping Party browser extension that allows consumers to invite their friends “to shop on a site with them and create a poll, share favourite designs and create outfits”. In the UK, it works on stores including Asos, Boohoo, Misguided, Zara and Topshop.

What it means for stores is that “UK retailers who are still not using social media need to rethink their strategies fast,” Jinks stressed. “The impact of Covid-19 on shopping routines is likely to last many more months. Every retailer needs to be a social climber”.

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