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Instagram recently announced it will be adding product tagging to its stories feature. This comes shortly after its release of shoppable Instagram posts in partnerships with major e-commerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce. With its latest release, Instagram continues to prove that social media is the biggest up-and-coming sales channel in online retail. Let’s identify some key statistics that confirm this.

The Past

  • In June of 2000, a survey found that roughly 22% of American adults had made at least one purchase online. (Pew Research Center)
  • Another study conducted by Pew Research Center found that only 10% on internet-using adults used at least one social networking site in 2005
  • In 2005, 8% of men and 6% of women used social media.

Online retail and e-commerce were not at the forefront of retail, especially in the realm of social media.

The Present

  • Today, the number of social media users worldwide in 2018 is 3.196 billion, up 13 percent year-on-year, according to Smart Insights.
  • That’s roughly 42% penetration of the global population.
  • For Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram users, each platform reports over 30% of their users visiting the platforms several times a day.

Not only has social media penetrated a large portion of the population, but the major platforms remain a part of their users’ daily routine.

  • 40% of all social media users report that it would be hard to give up social media, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
  • An annual survey conducted by analytics firm comScore found that 51% of shoppers make their purchases online.

The Future

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, social media is becoming the most versatile sales channel for online retailers. The traditional methods of driving conversions are becoming outdated. Generating website traffic is either expensive with paid advertising, or a long-term play with SEO and search ranking. Influencer marketing is hit or miss, with no real solution to identifying real engagement, real followers, or real opportunity.

Developing your own social media channels and leveraging them as sales channels makes the most sense for small to mid-level online retailers. Marketers and independent e-commerce retailers alike must shift focus from bringing prospects to them, to placing themselves where their prospects are. Expect to see more integrations between e-commerce platforms and social media. Tagging products in Instagram stories is only the beginning. Facebook has made their dedication to native e-commerce abundantly clear, so expect others to follow.

Social media is engrained in the daily routines of most consumers, so it is only natural that retailers establish themselves in these spaces. Diversify your sales channels, and try testing out new product releases on social media. It could potentially be the most cost-effective product placement.