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The psychology behind social commerce (and why it works)

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Social commerce is the integration of social media and eCommerce and has been on the rise in recent years. It allows businesses to sell their products directly through social media platforms, making it easier for consumers to discover and purchase items they see on their feeds. As social media continues to gain prominence in our daily lives, the popularity of social commerce is expected to grow with it.

However, the success of social commerce is about more than convenience or the novelty of purchasing products through social media; there’s a deeper psychological aspect at play that businesses need to understand to leverage the power of this type of commerce effectively. The psychology behind social commerce is ultimately what drives customers to make purchasing decisions, and businesses that tap into these factors can accomplish greater results in this increasingly competitive space.

In this article, we’ll explore the psychology behind social commerce and why it works. We’ll examine the influence of social proof, the power of community, the role of emotions, particularly trust and credibility, and the importance of personalization in social commerce. By understanding these key factors, you can create more effective social commerce strategies and build stronger connections with your customers.

What are social commerce, social influence, and social proof?

Social commerce refers to the use of social media platforms or networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, to facilitate the buying and selling of products or services. It allows businesses to integrate their eCommerce activities with social media to create a seamless shopping experience for customers. Social commerce often involves the use of social media influencers, customer reviews and recommendations, and community building to promote products and drive sales.

Social influence is a powerful factor that impacts our decision-making processes. When we see others doing something, we’re more likely to try it ourselves, especially when we perceive others as similar to us or as authority figures. This influence is particularly strong when it comes to purchasing decisions, as we often look to others to help us decide what products to buy.

Social proof is a phenomenon that leverages social influence to persuade customers to make a purchase. It serves as evidence that other people have already purchased and enjoyed a particular product and can take many forms, including customer reviews, ratings, and recommendations from friends or influencers.

Social proof is used extensively in social commerce, with businesses capitalizing on customer reviews and social media influencers to help convince potential buyers to make a purchase. For example, a clothing brand may showcase photos of customers wearing their clothes on social media, accompanied by glowing reviews and comments from other customers. This creates a sense of community and social proof around the brand, which makes shoppers feel more comfortable about buying.

You can also display customer ratings and reviews on platforms like Amazon. These demonstrate that a product is high quality and worth buying, which is why customers often use them to decide where or not to purchase.

By understanding the psychological power of social influence and social proof, you can wield them strategically to drive more sales and build stronger relationships with your customers.

The power of community

Social commerce and community are a highly fruitful combination. Creating a sense of community around a brand or product fosters customer loyalty, drives sales, and generates positive word-of-mouth advertising. Two powerful ways to achieve this are:

  1. Social media groups and communities: These groups bring together people with shared interests and can be used to promote products, answer questions, and provide customer support. By creating a space where customers can interact with each other and the brand, you nurture a sense of belonging and develop a loyal customer base.
  2. Social media influencers: Internet celebrities have large followings on social media, and their product endorsements can have a significant impact on sales. Influencers cultivate a sense of community around their brand, using their platform to share their experiences with their followers and strengthen their audience relationship.

Brands like Glossier and Outdoor Voices provide successful examples of community-based social commerce in action. These companies have cultivated strong communities around their brands by using social media to engage with customers and build a sense of shared values and interests. As a resu;t, they generated significant buzz around their products and built a loyal customer base that returns again and again.

Community and social commerce naturally go hand in hand. By fostering a sense of community around your brand, your business can augment its loyal customer base and increase sales through positive word-of-mouth advertising.

The role of emotions and FOMO

Emotions play a significant role in shoppers’ purchasing decisions. They influence their perceptions of a product’s value and can motivate people to buy based on how the product makes them feel.

Social commerce leverages emotions in a number of ways to drive sales. For example, implementing imagery and language that elicit positive emotions like happiness or excitement makes your products more appealing to customers. This can be particularly effective on social media, where visual content and emotional appeals are crucial to standing out in crowded feeds.

A frequently employed emotional tactic in social commerce is FOMO (fear of missing out). FOMO is a feeling of anxiety or unease that arises when we believe others are enjoying experiences or opportunities that we aren’t. Social commerce leverages this phenomenon by inducing a sense of urgency around products so customers feel they need to act quickly to avoid missing out on something special.

Run limited-time promotions, flash sales, or generate scarcity around products to create urgency and FOMO. For instance, you could produce a limited edition product that’s only available for a short time or use language that suggests a product is selling out quickly.

Brands like Apple and Nike successfully capitalize on emotional appeals through the use of powerful imagery and storytelling to establish emotional connections with their customers. By tapping into emotions like inspiration, excitement, or even nostalgia, these companies foster strong bonds with their shoppers and drive more sales.

The importance of personalization in social commerce

Businesses rely on personalization to tailor their marketing messages and product offerings to individual customers. In social commerce, personalization can enhance the consumer experience and increase conversions through several means:

  • Targeted advertising: This strategy relies on data from customers’ browsing and purchase history to help businesses create targeted ads that are more likely to resonate with individuals. This gives the impression that the products being offered are tailored specifically to each customer’s interests and needs.
  • Personalized product recommendations: By using algorithms to analyze a customer’s past purchases and browsing behavior, you can provide personalized recommendations for products that are likely to interest the customer. This contributes to a more personalized shopping experience and encourages sales.
  • Tailored customer service and product customization: These options produce a more engaging and memorable experience for customers, which in turn, increases customer satisfaction and loyalty.

You can see personalization in action through the efforts of Spotify and Netflix, which use personalized recommendations to suggest music and viewing entertainment to individual customers based on their past search behavior. That personalized experience keeps customers engaged and coming back for more.

How trust and credibility grow through social commerce

Trust and credibility are crucial to the success of social commerce. Customers need to feel confident that the products they’re purchasing are of high quality and that the businesses selling them are trustworthy. You can effectively build trust and credibility using tactics such as:

  • Customer reviews and ratings: When customers share their experiences with a product, they provide social proof that the items are of high quality and worth purchasing. Shoppers are more likely to believe feedback from other buyers than from brands, so this type of user-generated content (UGC) is highly beneficial for conversions.
  • Emphasizing transparency and openness in your business: With ethical considerations becoming more influential among buyers, being honest about your processes, such as your sourcing or manufacturing practices, strengthens trust. Shoppers prefer to support businesses that are responsive and communicative with their customers, so foster a culture of transparency within your own to foster buying confidence in your consumers.
  • Leveraging social commerce platforms that prioritize trust and credibility: The marketplace Etsy, for example, focuses on handmade and unique products, while clothing site Poshmark emphasizes community and peer-to-peer selling; as a result, both platforms have developed a strong reputation for trustworthiness and credibility among their user bases.

Wrapping up — Social commerce is a mind game

Social commerce is a rapidly expanding industry that leverages social media to facilitate the buying and selling of products. Its success greatly hinges on the psychology behind consumers’ decision-making, including factors such as social proof, emotions, community, personalization, trust, and credibility.

Understanding that psychological influence and leveraging it correctly is crucial for businesses to profit from social commerce. By incorporating these factors, you can create more effective marketing strategies and build stronger connections with your customers.

As social media continues to gain prominence in our daily lives, businesses that are able to capitalize on social commerce will enjoy a significant advantage in the marketplace.