5 Social Media Shopping Features That’ll Boost Your Sales

9 min read • Mar 12, 2021 • Jesse Sumrak

Social media is often an untapped marketing battleground for small businesses. There’s the obvious social media marketing path of PPC (pay-per-click) ads, LinkedIn Message campaigns, sponsored Instagram stories, and influencer marketing. However, they’ve always created a disjointed journey of taking customers from Point A (their social media feed) to Point B (your website or e-commerce listing).

Imagine that same digital interaction translated into the real world. Your customer is visiting the mall with some friends (browsing their Instagram feed) when they see something they like in a fancy, well-placed advertising display (sponsored ad). They take a second to look closer (click the ad), and you abruptly whisk them away to your far-far-away store (hyperlink to your website) where you hope they make a purchase. Once the customer has finished browsing or buying, they’re now free to leave your store and walk back to the mall (return button) to continue going about their day.

Sounds a little out-there, right? Well, that’s been the digital experience for users on social media for years. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.

Social media channels have been rolling out shopping features to take the friction out of your customers’ shopping experience. Thanks to free tools like Facebook Shops, Instagram Checkout, and Instagram Live Shopping, customers can discover your products and purchase them without leaving the social media apps. This puts the entire shopping experience in 1 simple, familiar place for you and your customers.

This post will walk you through some of the latest-and-greatest social media shopping features that make converting followers into customers easier. Let’s take them one by one.

1. Facebook Shops

COVID-19 forced many businesses to take everything online overnight. However, launching a full-fledged e-commerce website is no simple task. Yes, it’s easier than ever, but it still takes time, money, and strategy.

Facebook launched Facebook Shops to help with that problem. “Our goal is to make shopping seamless and empower anyone from a small business owner to a global brand to use our apps to connect with customers,” Facebook states in their Shops announcement.

Facebook Shops empowers businesses to set up an online store on both Facebook and Instagram. These online stores feature products from a business’s catalogs, syncing everything from imaging to prices to descriptions. Now, followers can discover products, save items, and even place an order—all from entirely within the app.

Have a question? Like in a physical store, Facebook Shops empowers customers to talk with you before purchasing. Users can message your business through Messenger, WhatsApp, or Instagram Direct to ask questions, get recommendations, find support, track deliveries, and more.

Selling Through Shops 

Facebook Shops offers plenty of versatility packaged into a straightforward platform. When you set up your account, you can choose how you want to convert customers:

  1. Check out on another website: Customers can browse products on Facebook or Instagram, but they’ll be directed to your website when they’re ready to check out.
  2. Check out with Facebook or Instagram: Customers can browse and check out directly on Facebook or Instagram.
  3. Check out with Messaging: Customers will interact with your business via Messenger, Instagram Direct, or WhatsApp to make a purchase.

You’ll then get to choose which products you want to feature and how you’ll organize your collections. Building collections and customizing your shop is straightforward. For better or for worse, there’s not a whole lot you can do—which makes setting up a professional-looking shop quick and easy:

  • Visuals: Choose which product images you want to feature and which cover photos will inspire people to check out your collection.
  • Brand colors: Maintain consistent branding across your website, social media profiles, and Shops with custom colors.
  • Collection layout: Arrange your layouts and the order of your collections to create the perfect shopping experience.

If you want to get started with Facebook Shops, try one of their free Blueprint courses. They’ll walk you step-by-step through setting up your shopping, adding products to your catalog, customizing your shop, and adding checkout options.

2. Instagram Checkout

Instagram rolled out their Shoppable posts years ago, but they’re now taking the entire buying experience entirely in-app with Checkout.

“With checkout on Instagram, businesses can truly leverage the full ecosystem of Instagram Shopping features to build experiences that drive awareness and transactions all in one place,” Instagram said in an announcement.

With Checkout, when a user clicks your Shoppable posts, they’ll be prompted to enter their billing and shipping information rather than being redirected to your website. Users can set up their purchasing information on Instagram to make placing orders quick and easy every time. 

Instagram Checkout uses the Facebook Commerce Manager to integrate all your social media products, orders, insights, and payouts. Checkout isn’t quite as robust as Shops—it’s not a complete collection of all your products. It simply empowers your followers to buy products they happen to see on an Instagram Shoppable post directly from their feed or your brand’s profile page without having to leave Instagram.

If your business only has a couple of different products, Checkout is a great place to experiment with Instagram sales. It takes a bit of the friction out of Shoppable posts and lets you start selling in no time. Win-win for everyone!

3. Instagram Live Shopping

Instagram Live Shopping builds off of Checkout by building purchasing functionality right into the Live experience.

When you go live with your audience, you can feature your products to allow viewers to make a purchase in real time or at the end of your stream. You can demo products or have live Q&As while selling your products—essentially turning every Instagram Live session into a sales opportunity.

The functionality is simple—during your livestream, a non-obtrusive, transparent bar featuring your product will display across the bottom of the screen. Interested viewers can simply add the item to their bag and check out now or later.

You can tag individual products or even a complete collection from your Shop to feature. Set up your items before going live—this way, you can keep the selling process seamless when things are happening in real time.

Make your livestreams a 2-way conversation by engaging with your audience. Don’t deliver a sales pitch—create a chat. Talk to your audience, answer their questions, and engage with them in a fun, memorable format. Even if they don’t make a purchase immediately, your Instagram Live Shopping experience may inspire them to become a customer in the future.

4. Instagram Shopping From Creators

If you’re utilizing social media influencers in any capacity, Instagram Shopping from Creators is a game-changing feature. This tool gives creators the ability to tag your products directly in their posts and stories, essentially letting others market your products for you. And with the integration of Checkout, their followers can discover and shop your products without ever leaving Instagram.

Instagram Shopping from Creators is a great addition (or alternative) to traditional social media ads. You may find a paid partnership with a micro-influencer or local celebrity is much more cost-effective than sponsored ads or stories.

This shopping feature makes the transition from discovery to intent to purchase quick and easy. Imagine the previous scenario without Instagram Shopping from Creators—a follower likes a product your influencer is wearing, reads the description to find out more about it, visits your Instagram profile page or website (hopefully), and decides to purchase or not. This disjointed flow sends users all over the internet, giving them plenty of opportunities to drop off and never make a purchase.

Getting started is straightforward: simply manage your approved creators within the Instagram app and suggest priority products to them. Like with Live Shopping, you can suggest Product Sets or individual products.

5. Pinterest’s Shop From Boards, Search, and Pins

Pinterest Product Pins launched years ago to enrich specific pins by letting Pinterest users know if a product was shoppable. It featured data like up-to-date prices, availability, product titles, descriptions, and more from your website. Now, Pinterest is rolling out more advanced shopping features to help brands capitalize on their rising search traffic and user intent.

Below, we’ll cover 3 newer tools that’ll help your business to sell on Pinterest. However, these Pinterest shopping tools are primarily for users—not for your business. You’ll see what we mean when you read more about their features.

Shop From Boards

Pinterest added a “Shop” tab to Pinterest boards to provide buyable product recommendations based on the collection’s pins. Say, for example, that a young lad built a Pinterest board around awesome shoes that he loves—the Shop tab would then show him actual buyable products.

“[Users will] now see a Shop tab that shows products from or inspired by the Pins on their board. Just as if a shopping list has been created for their boards, Pinners will see in-stock products based on what they’ve been saving,” Pinterest noted in their announcement.

Pinterest reports that 97% of top searches on Pinterest are unbranded, meaning shoppers search for generic terms, not brand-related products or services. Tools like Shop from Boards, Search, and Pins combined with users’ broad search queries level the playing field for small businesses by allowing anyone to be discovered.

Shop From Search

Shop from Search adds a shopping tab to the main pin search page so users can shop in-stock products rather than just finding and building inspiring boards.

Pinterest has also added price and brand filters so users can more easily find relevant products.

Shop From Pins

Shop from Pins lets users click “shop similar” on any pin to see related in-stock products. This makes it easy for users to identify their interests and quickly pinpoint the items they’re looking for on Pinterest.

Capitalize on Social Media Shopping

There are 3.5 billion social media users worldwide, and that number is only going to keep growing. Regardless of where, when, or how your customers shop, stay top-of-mind by capitalizing on all the latest-and-great social media shopping tools.

All of the features we shared today are simple to use and easy to set up, so there’s no reason not to experiment. Best-case scenario: you take the friction out of the social media shopping experience and gain a new revenue stream. Worst-case scenario: you waste about 5–10 minutes setting up your account. 

You might as well give it a try.

Jesse Sumrak

Jesse Sumrak is a Social Media Manager for SendGrid, a leading digital communication platform. He's created and managed content for startups, growth-stage companies, and publicly-traded businesses. Jesse has spent almost a decade writing about small business and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped startup. When he's not dabbling in digital marketing, you'll find him ultrarunning in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Jesse studied Public Relations at Brigham Young University.