The information technology company published a report in January on the international state of social commerce, with a survey of 10,000 social media users in China, India, Brazil, the US and the UK.
While beauty was one of the smaller social commerce categories, the report said e-commerce in the segment is expanding rapidly and is expected to “capture over 40% of digital spend on average for this category in key markets by 2025.”
Audrey Depraeter-Montacel, Accenture’s global beauty lead, said not only are companies across the world finding success with social commerce, but the sales medium is expanding to include more experiential and interactive options.
Companies across the world, including US brands like Kylie Cosmetics, use social commerce, which is selling products through or directly on social media platforms. Depraeter-Montacel said the sale strategy’s success can be seen in an October 2021 sales run, where a popular Chinese livestreamer sold $1.9 billion of beauty products in one day.
“When we look at the numbers … the power of social commerce is just unbelievable,” Depraeter-Montacel said. “It's not just something fancy or funny, or that is going to entertain consumers for a while. It's a very deep change that is already doing a lot. It's set to sweep the world.”
Social commerce takes many forms today
Depraeter-Montacel says there are three general types of social commerce. First is content-based, meaning content created by a brand, influencer or consumer which ideally leads to product discovery, engagement and action. An example of that model is Instagram's shopping feature.
There is also experience-driven commerce or interactive media like livestreams, augmented reality or gamified experiences, which Depraeter-Montacel said involves creating an overall experience that leads to purchasing products.
Lastly, there is network-driven social commerce, which is typically shop owners or brands interacting directly via apps like WhatsApp or peer-to-peer marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace.
Depraeter-Montacel said social commerce has also expanded from small brands and low-end brands up to multinationals and luxury brands.
For example, L’Oreal ran two virtual livestream beauty festivals in 2021, one in Canada and another in Malaysia, where consumers could interact directly with the brands during a sale, including high-end brands like Kiehl’s and Lancome.
According to the Meta report on the Malaysian beauty festival said L’Oreal saw 17,000 chats in 24 hours, a 12% post engagement rate and four times the sales than on an average day.
New digital tools like augmented reality are also helping companies sell products that were previously difficult to sell online, like lipstick.
“Technology has evolved so much and is doing so well you can even buy makeup via social commerce with no problem,” Depraeter-Montacel said. “Virtual reality has helped so much to improve the experience that there is no limit anymore.”
International and generational differences in consumer behavior
According to the report, consumers in the US and UK are less likely to purchase products through social commerce than those living in China, India and Brazil generally.
In China eight out of 10 users reported having purchased products over social commerce, however, the report stated that a majority of US and UK consumers had never done so.
While that is general data covering all social commerce, Depraeter-Montacel said in beauty social commerce is relatively common across borders, with higher rates in China but successful examples across the world.
The study also stated that consumers in China, Brazil and India were more likely to be engaged in social commerce by “features that help them discover and evaluate potential purchases,” while US and UK consumers are more attracted by discounts and low prices.
Depraeter-Montacel said one of the key factors in regional engagement in social commerce is how “mobile-first” the country is. For example, she said China is already very mobile-focused and sees high engagement in social commerce, but in countries like France where there are lower levels of mobile penetration, there is less social commerce use.
However, she added that social commerce will likely increase in countries with low mobile penetration as the devices become even more commonplace.
Millennials make up the largest portion of social commerce shoppers, but the report notes that Gen Z consumers, which already make up 29% of social commerce shoppers, will be spending an increasing amount in the market.
Those age differences are important to consider when specifically targeting a brand’s audience while building a social commerce campaign, Depraeter-Montacel said.
Trust, consistency in social commerce valued by consumers
Both the report and Depraeter-Montacel said creating trust in social commerce is important in gaining and retaining consumers. The report finds older consumers are more concerned about security and brand familiarity, and younger ones are interested in reviews and livestreams.
Overall, in creating social commerce Depraeter-Montacel said it’s important for brands to develop consistent brand storytelling across platforms, from packaging, retail and DTC websites to social commerce materials.
“If it's not aligned, the consumer can feel it's not authentic, or it's really a marketing (scheme),” Depraeter-Montacel said. “One of the challenges for brands today is how to convey a message that is consistent depending on where a consumer is buying.”
Building that trust may also help consumers feel comfortable sharing their data to help brands improve targeting in social commerce as privacy laws and policies shift internationally, Depraeter-Montacel said.