The Thin Line Between E-commerce And Social Commerce

The advent of technology and the internet brought about new ways of carrying out human endeavours like buying, selling, and communication. One of the applications of the internet that cannot be overlooked is its function in commerce. The internet brought a new era of commerce known as e-commerce – all shoppers needed to do to buy an item was just to visit an online store and click click, they can purchase an item using various payments method without having to visit any physical store or location.

The era of social media also came with its changes, in how people buy things online. Almost everyone is on social media these days, including businesses and big brands. The importance of social media for sales and these big brands cannot be overemphasized. It is not just about having an online presence, it helps businesses to reach out to new or potential customers as well as give these customers an easier way to complete the buying process. This is known as social commerce. It mirrors e-commerce but the only difference is that the “platform” is social media.

Acknowledging the similarities between e-commerce and social commerce is also acknowledging that there is just a thin line between the two. How are these two similar? How different are they? What is the relationship between them? These are questions we’d be explaining in this article today but first, let’s broadly explain what social and e-commerce are.


What is e-commerce?

The term “e-commerce” refers to all the processes involved in buying and selling goods and services, just like commerce, but the difference is that all the processes are conducted over the internet using an internet-enabled device such as a smartphone or a laptop. According to Investopedia, e-commerce refers to a business model that allows companies and individuals to buy and sell goods and services over the Internet. E-commerce operates in four major market segments and can be conducted over computers, tablets, smartphones, and other smart devices. Nearly every imaginable product and service is available through e-commerce transactions, including books, music, plane tickets, and financial services such as stock investing and online banking. As such, it is considered a very disruptive technology.

It is pertinent to know that e-commerce stands for electronic commerce.

E-commerce came with the wave of the internet and technology. Over the years, businesses especially small ones have been able to increase their outreach and grow their brands as e-commerce gives them an unlimited opportunity to meet new audiences out of their business territory, gain a wider market presence by providing cheaper and more efficient distribution channels for their products or services, etc.

E-commerce reduced the need to visit traditional or physical stores. It provides convenience, easy payment methods, and is focused on customers.

E-commerce can happen in four ways or market segments namely; business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C), consumer-to-consumer (C2C) and consumer-to-business (C2B).

Business-to-business (B2B) is the direct sale of goods and services between businesses. Business-to-consumer (B2C) refers to sales between businesses and their customers. Consumer-to-consumer (C2C) refers to individuals selling goods and services to each other. Consumer-to-business (C2B) involves individuals selling goods or services to businesses.

Amazon, Shopify, Jumia, etc., are examples of e-commerce platforms.


What is Social Commerce?

Social commerce can be tagged as a spinoff of e-commerce. While it operates just like e-commerce, it is based entirely on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc. It is the use of social media platforms for processes known to be associated with e-commerce transactions. Wikipedia describes social commerce as a subset of electronic commerce that involves social media and online media that supports social interaction and user contributions to assist online buying and selling of products and services.

Per Investopedia, social commerce uses networking websites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as vehicles to promote and sell products and services. A social commerce campaign’s success is measured by the degree to which consumers interact with the company’s marketing through retweets, likes, and shares.


Similarities between e-commerce and social commerce

E-commerce and social commerce share a handful of similarities. Let’s take a look at them.

  • They are both alternate shopping methods

E-commerce and social commerce replace the need to visit brick-and-mortar stores for shopping. Via these alternate shopping methods, one can check out products across multiple stores, compare prices, get feedback from other customers who have bought the same product(s), see ratings and reviews, etc. Customers can use these methods to search for as many goods as they want across stores and prevent a scenario like getting to a physical store only for what they want to either be out of stock or not being sold by such a store.

  • They are both based on the internet and can be accessed using an internet-enabled device

E-commerce is based on the internet and to access it, one must have an internet-enabled device. Social commerce, based on social media platforms, is also based on the internet and one would require an internet-enabled device and an account with a social media platform(s) to access it.

  • They are both easy-to-use and convenient ways of shopping

Both e-commerce and social commerce options are convenient ways of accessing goods and services. They are easy to use and save users from stress and the time-consuming factor the traditional shopping method is known for.


The thin line between e-commerce and social commerce

While e-commerce and social commerce are almost birds of a feather, they have distinguishing features that set them apart. While social commerce employs the principles that e-commerce is built on, a differentiating factor is that for social commerce, the point of sale is via social media. E-commerce platforms are online versions of companies, sellers, etc., where people can go to make purchases and sales. Social commerce creates a personalized environment for both sellers and buyers. It gives shoppers a unique shopping experience.

Social commerce has more potential to retain customers than e-commerce because e-commerce platforms may redirect customers to another seller or store which can cause an initial store or seller a customer was looking through, to lose such customer. Also, social commerce provides a more convenient atmosphere with a personalized shopping experience which limits the rate at which shoppers may want to visit other stores.

As a result of the opportunities existing in the social commerce space, social media platforms continue to roll out features that help businesses reach more customers than e-commerce. It also saves businesses costs on advertising, etc. Social commerce brings fun to e-commerce. And people are always on one social media platform or another, this makes it the best option for any business to make sales.


The relationship between e-commerce and social commerce

Like it or not, social commerce is a part of e-commerce. Its processes are geared towards providing and accessing products and services online. Thanks to social commerce, customers can make purchases, form a community around a product or service, engage with brands and manufacturers, etc.

E-commerce is still relevant today and will continue to be relevant. Social commerce just helps to reach existing and potential clients/customers faster, interact with and provide support at all times thanks to chatbots. Many businesses use the two options as part of their strategy. They are inter-connected and work hand-in-hand. Some businesses are entirely based on social media but this doesn’t stop them from reaching potential users. Social commerce opens up more opportunities for companies and businesses and is most useful for small businesses looking to grow.

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