Transforming Retail: The Impact of Influencer-Led Social Commerce

By Nilam Atodaria, Global Product Director, The Goat Agency

Social commerce in the APAC region has witnessed remarkable growth, cementing its status as a dominant force in the digital marketplace.

Social commerce is expected to reach $660bn by 2025, up from $295bn in 2021. Notably, China’s thriving social commerce ecosystem, led by platforms like Taobao and WeChat contributed significantly to the phenomenon, and in recent years, social media and shopping have become increasingly synonymous in APAC.

So why have we not seen this take-up of social commerce in western markets?

Some have argued it’s to do with western consumer behaviours; they tend to be more concerned about privacy and data security, making them reluctant to purchase directly through social platforms.. Other reasons could be that established e-comm giants like Amazon or traditional brick-and-mortar retailers have such a strong foothold, making it challenging for new entrants, as well as having to contend with stricter regulations.

From my perspective though, a major reason that social commerce hasn’t taken off as quickly in the West is that the dominant social platforms like Facebook, TikTok and Instagram were not originally designed with e-commerce in mind. No matter how many functionalities have been added, they’re still less likely to deliver a seamless shopping experience as the likes of China’s WeChat, and it’s difficult to shift consumers’ perception of what the platform is for.

Influencer-led social commerce

Amongst all of this though, a clear trend is emerging. And that is that influencer marketing is having and will have a huge impact on the development of social commerce.

Influencer marketing is now a core media channel, and is proven to have a great impact on consumer purchase decisions (#TikTokMadeMeBuyIt). The power of peer to peer recommendations cannot be underestimated and where things are going to get really exciting, is when these can also be combined with social commerce.

Part of the challenge with influencer as a channel is that it’s always been viewed as more of an awareness/top of funnel channel. Whilst we at The Goat Agency would disagree, connecting it with in-built social commerce will inevitably help to drive even more of those lower-funnel outcomes that brand teams are seeking.

What is crucial though is that we approach influencer-led social commerce more creatively. Consumers are looking for connected commerce experiences which fit within their natural consumer journey (and feel true to the creator), as opposed to experiences which require them to shift their habits.

The impact of influencer-led social commerce goes beyond mere convenience. It’s about trust and authenticity. Influencers bridge the gap between brands and consumers, creating a sense of trust that traditional advertising struggles to achieve. When an influencer recommends a product, it’s not just a sales pitch; it’s a personal endorsement from someone you admire and trust. This genuine connection fosters a sense of community among consumers, who become part of a larger tribe, united by their shared interests and aspirations.

Influencer-led social commerce off platforms

When you think about social commerce, most will think of in-app functionalities (TikTok Shop for example). In fact though, social commerce can be looked at through a different lens; it’s just commerce but incorporating and driven by social media.

At The Goat Agency, we’ve been driving and at the forefront of influencer-led retail media. This is the idea of combining influencer content with 1st party consumer data via retail media entities to drive targeted, engaging ads (that look and feel like social platforms). Essentially taking people from social platform and then retargeting with ads that look and feel like social/creator content. This allows us to keep those social connections and impactful creator content but also allow it to scale and drive greater outcomes in other spaces.

An example of this is The Goat Agency’s collaboration with Amazon Ads to introduce creator-led shoppable content to the Amazon advertising suite. We can now meet shoppers where they are making their transactional decisions with content that can impact their purchase decisions.

How is this transforming retail?

The symbiotic relationship between influencers and retail platforms is at the core of this transformation. It’s a partnership that has redefined the shopping experience, making it more personal, engaging, and, ultimately, more enjoyable. Gone are the days of impersonal, one-size-fits-all shopping. Now, consumers have access to carefully curated selections, tailored to their interests and desires, thanks to their trusted social media figures.

In the world of social commerce, it’s not just about making a sale; it’s about telling a story. Businesses are increasingly recognizing the power of influencers to shape brand narratives that are authentic and relatable. Influencers have the ability to humanize brands, making them more approachable and emotionally resonant. They create a narrative that is not about the product itself but about the lifestyle, values, and aspirations it represents.

At its very simplest form advertising is targeting the right people with the right content at the right time and solutions which combine many different marketing mediums together allow us to do this.