Social Commerce Takes a Giant Step as Entertainment Melds With Entrepreneurship

WooCommerce, social commerce, mobile shopping

As social commerce evolves into a serious contender, eCommerce and social media platforms are partnering to create new online experiences where entertainment triggers a sale.

It’s a natural alliance now as it was in the newspaper days, when perusing that day’s edition was an exercise in pre-digital discoverability, seeing ads for things we didn’t know we wanted until we saw them — often placed adjacent to content somehow associated the product or service.

As pandemic-triggered digital transformation continues — sometimes slowing, sometimes accelerating — the greenfield opportunity is uniting robust eCommerce communities with social audiences so that old discoverability magic can happen instantly in an embedded, digital fashion.

WooCommerce CEO Paul Maiorana conversed with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster on this expansive topic just after the online marketplace announced its strategic partnership with streaming platform TikTok, introducing WooCommerce’s 3.7 million online sellers into the friendly video wonderland of more than 1 billion active TikTok users, many of them friends and family.

“Obviously social commerce is a big part of the evolution of commerce and the future of where folks are spending their time,” Maiorana said. “There’s an opportunity for them to be influenced by the videos on TikTok or other social platforms, by their friends or folks in their network, not to mention advertising playing an important role in all those things as well.”

The integration with social is a significant step for eCommerce, as PYMNTS research finds consumers are far more engaged with entertainment than with transaction. Combining the two has the potential to leverage consumer impulse and sentiment in the moment, and is an ideal context for those purchases to ultimately be more satisfying, creating stickiness.

Add to this the June 8 news that WooCommerce is fielding a new mobile card reader enabling merchants to create orders in the Woo mobile app, syncing either in-store on online orders to inventory, integrated with the platform’s “Simple Pay” feature, and it’s a recipe for selling.

While at present, embedded offers in TikTok bring shoppers back to the WooCommerce store to complete the sale, Maiorana said, “We’re pretty open-minded about those things. I think it’s really clear from the consumer standpoint that for me as a shopper, I love that experience, the ability to buy right on a platform. We want to empower that as well.”

See also: WooCommerce Offers Access to TikTok’s 1 Billion Members

Serendipity and Selling

The WooCommerce-TikTok mashup is well-timed as TikTok becomes the go-to for not just teens and tweens, but a surprising number of millennials, parents and even grandparents. They love TikTok for the videos its creators dream up, and they may also come to see it as a purchasing platform.

“The way I use TikTok as a 40-year-old man, I have very few friends on the platform,” Maiorana said half-jokingly. “For me, it’s very much entertainment. There’s not a lot of social activity.”

Webster tossed out a stat that users are averaging 52 minutes per day engaging with TikTok content, not to buy. Maiorana agreed that this represents a massive marketing opportunity, using his own behavior on the platform as an example of how it works.

“Probably every purchase that I’ve made through TikTok, it’s not like I was not intending to [buy a] pair of sneakers or a necklace for my wife and [went] to go find them on TikTok,” he said. “It sort of came to me through their algorithm.”

He added that “there’s serendipity. Certainly, as we’ve moved to digital channels where it’s more purposeful or intent-driven purchases, TikTok brings something kind of new and novel.”

That novel experience is going mainstream fast, despite current cooling in eCommerce.

“Software is eating the world, and I think we’re going to continue to see this trend despite a little slow down today. The trends are very clear,” he said. “It’s certainly up and to the right from our perspective, and this is behavior that is sticky and also generational. My 10-year-old brought me into the world of TikTok. This is native for her. My son as well. The trend is clear.”

Read more: WooCommerce Expands Partnership With BNPL Firm Affirm

Context, Differentiation Call the Shots

At the start of its partnership with TikTok and equipped with its new mobile card reader, WooCommerce is navigating the same economic weather as others, and it’s inclement.

Noting the scale and scope of change since 2020, Maiorana said, “We have an incredibly different landscape [today] between supply chain issues, manufacturing issues, the cost of fulfillment and shipping, the challenges for businesses to staff, the privacy changes from Apple and the erosion of some of the performance of online advertising — whereas two years ago, many businesses that had tailwinds if they were selling online are now facing headwinds.”

Given all that, managing this next phase of digital shift is “really about differentiation,” he said. “We see this sort of softening as folks are, in the short term, returning to a preference for shopping in physical locations.

“To sell online, you really need to stand out, differentiate and build a brand. Reach your communities and customers in areas that maybe you hadn’t explored before, like TikTok and social commerce.”

Built on the highly adaptable WordPress web platform and with established strengths in segments including fashion, health and beauty, electronics, food and online education, Maiorana said WooCommerce is positioning itself as “a really strong default.”

“I think we’ve got a good idea of what best practices are to reach your customers and provide a great experience, but also to enable our customers to speak to their customers however they want,” he said. “To have complete flexibility and customizability over the WooCommerce platform, that’s core to our DNA and I think is very much in line with where things are trending.

“We give folks a well-optimized, performant default that then they can build exactly the experience they want for their business,” which increasingly means embedded and social.

There are still mountains to climb, like the demand for more payments choice that’s now leading to a paradox of choice at the checkout. That will need some attention.

“It’s almost getting worse before it gets better,” he said. “There’s a lot of fragmentation, particularly at the payments level. It’s starting to look like NASCAR in many checkouts with the various branded payment buttons that are available. I think it’s an interesting challenge.”