Social commerce vs. eCommerce: What’s right for your business?

Editorial Team

4 min read
Man making purchase on mobile phone

These days, there are more options than ever to sell products and services to your customers. Small businesses can conduct commerce out of brick-and-mortar stores, websites, social media, or some combination of all three.

If you’re interested in moving part of your business online, you’ve probably already heard terms like “eCommerce” and “social commerce.” These terms are used to describe similar yet different experiences for you and your customers, and understanding them will help you make an informed decision about the online aspect of your small business.

What is eCommerce?

eCommerce is the term used to describe traditional online shopping. It involves going to a store-specific website or mobile app, browsing through items, adding them to your cart, and completing your purchase using a variety of payment methods. Businesses can get an eCommerce site up and running by either designing a website on their own, or taking advantage of the eCommerce functionality integrated with your POS system.

eCommerce sites usually also have features like search functionality, product reviews and ratings, and sorting functions to help customers find the exact items they’re looking for. It’s essentially taking the browsing and buying experience of your business and putting it online in a centralized location.

What is social commerce?

Social commerce, or social shopping, is the use of social media platforms for buying and selling your products and services. This means buying and selling directly through a social media app  (like Facebook Marketplace or the upcoming TikTok Shop), with payments accepted directly through the app. It can also refer to your business’ social media presence more generally, especially if you use social media platforms like Pinterest or Instagram to showcase specific products and/or market them directly to customers, or if your business partners with popular social media influencers as part of your marketing strategy.

Businesses can set up social commerce functionality by making a business account on their platform, curating the page, and accepting payments through the app. They can also use social media strictly as a marketing tool and link their customers back to a more traditional eCommerce site in order to make their purchase.

What are the important differences?

The main difference between eCommerce and social commerce is simply the platform. It’s the difference between putting your entire store on a specific webpage for folks to browse through, and using social media to sell and market products and services in dedicated posts or longer marketing campaigns.

eCommerce sites rely on traditional online marketing tactics like SEO and paid advertising to drive traffic, while social commerce leverages social media algorithms, user-generated content, and direct marketing to reach potential customers. Thanks to the inherently social nature of social media apps, social commerce can also offer a more personalized and interactive shopping experience than traditional eCommerce with things like live chats and personalized product recommendations. On the flip side, traditional eCommerce offers your customers an experience that is much closer to shopping in a store, plus it allows you to accept payments through your established retail POS system instead of through one of the apps.

Which one is right for my business?

Since eCommerce and social commerce both come with some unique advantages, you may be wondering which one is better for your small business. However, it’s important to note that the choice doesn’t have to be binary. Most businesses use some combination of eCommerce and social commerce, and if you want to sell products and services online, you may as well take advantage of every tool that’s available to you.

Having a solid eCommerce site for your customers will offer them a more traditional and recognizable online-shopping experience. Having a robust social media presence that markets and sells your products more directly to people can help you reach new customers and deepen brand loyalty with the customers you have. There are lots of ways for businesses to combine both tactics in order to maximize their respective benefits: for example, advertising a product or service on social media and then linking it out to your eCommerce site, or offering a special promotion or deal on a product if your customers purchase it through social media.

At the end of the day, only you can decide what’s right for your business, but understanding the wide array of marketing and commerce functionality available online can help you figure out the best way for your business to show up in your customers online lives.

To learn more about taking your business online with Clover, contact a business consultant today.


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