The Supply Side: Social commerce gaining traction among retailers

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 1,085 views 

Social commerce, or live streaming shopping events on social media platforms, is gaining traction in U.S. retail.

Facebook is expanding its “Live Shopping” with a new promotion slated for Fridays this summer. The events began May 21 and will occur through July 16, and brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Clinique and Sephora have signed on.

“We are laser-focused on staying close to our customers at Abercrombie, so having the ability to connect with them in a new and innovative way via Facebook Live Shopping is incredible,” Carey Collins Krug, senior vice president and head of marketing at Abercrombie & Fitch, said in a statement. “This is the technological crescendo of what our social selling programs have been building to, and we are thrilled to continue to evolve and expand in partnership with Facebook.”

Social media giant Facebook has said the promotion intends to give consumers the ability to discover the latest products from participating brands and ask questions about size, fit and other information in real time. The brands taking part in live streaming sales sessions will provide new content, answer questions and conduct a streamlined checkout process through Facebook’s Shops feature.

“Over the last year, we’ve heard from many retailers that Live Shopping has been a lifeline for their businesses — allowing them to connect with their customers and build community when they had to close their physical stores,” said Yulie Kwon Kim, director of product management commerce for Facebook. “We know that consumers continue to discover new products and brands they love across our platforms, and our product strategy is to help make that purchase experience as frictionless as possible.”

Consumers will tune into the live streaming shopping sessions on each brand’s Facebook page or visit the Shop tab or bookmark on the Facebook mobile app. Facebook first launched the live shopping video feature in August 2020.

“As consumer habits have quickly shifted to focus on innovative e-commerce experiences, we’re proud to be able to offer our existing and new to Sephora clients this unique opportunity to interact with beauty,” said Carolyn Bojanowski, senior vice president of e-commerce at Sephora. “Our priority at Sephora is to ensure our clients have a seamless shopping journey, and we know that we have to meet our clients where they spend their time, go to find inspiration or socialize.”

Walmart is also investing in livestream shopping and recently held a social commerce event featuring Ree Drummond, also known as television personality “The Pioneer Woman.” The event took place May 27 on Facebook, and hundreds of live viewers tuned into the live feed where Drummond and two assistants modeled new fashion available on She also demonstrated several exclusive kitchen accessories in her Pioneer Woman line. Drummond was able to take questions from the viewers through a chat function, and she told the viewers she loved to launch new items live on social media. Viewers could add items to their cart by simply clicking on the item in the feed.

“Live Shopping combines the fun of live video with the convenience of online shopping and offers businesses the unique opportunity to connect with their customers in a truly engaging format,” said Nada Stirratt, vice president of global marketing solutions, North America, at Facebook. “We’re so thrilled to work with Walmart on their Live Shopping stream project, which [featured] the latest products from Ree Drummond and create[d] an entertaining environment to engage with their shoppers.”

Walmart first became involved with live stream shopping in mid-December, working with the TikTok video platform and taking part in a Holiday Shop-Along Spectacular. William White, chief marketing officer at Walmart, said the shopping method allows consumers to engage directly with the brands. He said Walmart’s work with TikTok in the December shopping events was a one-of-a-kind fashion shopping experience. During the special holiday event, TikTok creators revealed their favorite Walmart fashion finds in a way that was uniquely their own — whether that was an inside look at their closet, a living room runway show, or a fashion-forward dance-off.

“We’ve shortened the distance from inspiration to purchase by making it shoppable,” White said. “The TikTok community was able to tap on a product when they saw a Walmart fashion item they liked during the event. This made it easy to add the item to their cart and check out, all while doing what they love — enjoying fun content from their favorite creators.”

Analysts with Coresight Research estimate live-streaming commerce was worth about $6 billion last year, with the opportunity to reach $11 billion this year and $25 billion by 2023. The U.S. live-streaming commerce market is behind the Chinese, estimated to have driven about $125 billion in sales last year, up from $63 billion in 2019, Coresight Research reports.

Scott Benedict, director of retail studies at Texas A&M University, said social commerce is poised to grow, although it’s unclear how big the new method will get. He said the most significant benefits of social commerce are the strategic targeting it gives brands and the live forum to talk about the products, demonstrate them and get feedback from users and potential customers.

He said social commerce had been around in some forms for decades as infomercials and shopping channels like QVC. The latest version of live-stream shopping on social media platforms is an interaction between consumers and brands with the opportunity for direct dialogue, which can be more engaging than simply shopping online.

Benedict said this is an emerging shopping channel, and it’s too early to know how it might impact other shopping methods, including physical store traffic or voice and mobile commerce.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Supply Side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.