Social Commerce Sales Expanding Rapidly In The U.S.
Social commerce sales—products or services ordered via social networks, either by buying directly on the social platform, through clicking links on the social network that lead to the retailer’s product page to complete the purchase or through transactions agreed to on social platforms but where payment takes place elsewhere, such as C2C transactions on Facebook Marketplace—continue to grow in the U.S. eMarketer predicts that in 2021 it will rise by 35.8 percent to $36.62 billion—that’s down only slightly from 2020’s 38.9 percent surge, driven mainly by the pandemic’s boom in ecommerce and increased social media consumption.
Despite this strong growth, the U.S.’s social commerce market will be about one-tenth the size of China’s—$351.65 billion in 2021. The U.S. also lags behind China when looking at social commerce as a percentage of total ecommerce sales. This year, eMarketer expect social commerce to make up just four percent of the U.S. retail ecommerce market, compared with 13.7 percent in China. The gap between the two countries will remain fairly stable through 2024, when social commerce will make up five percent of U.S. retail ecommerce sales versus 14.5 percent in China. eMarketer notes that its forecast for social commerce sales in China excludes sales on Pinduoduo, a group-buying platform that allows users to round up additional buyers via social media to drive volume discounts on products, as it considers Pinduoduo to be an ecommerce platform, rather than a social network.
“U.S. marketers can look to China as a roadmap for social commerce’s development as many of the trends that will drive its growth, like livestream shopping, originated in China,” says Jasmine Enberg, eMarketer senior analyst at Insider Intelligence. “Keep in mind, however, that it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. The social and ecommerce landscapes in the U.S. are far more fragmented than those in China, and consumer behavior and attitudes toward digital shopping, social media consumption, online privacy, and payments are different as well.”
eMarketer’s forecast shows that Facebook is the No. 1 social commerce platform in the U.S.; it expects 22.3 percent of U.S. internet users, or 56.1 million people ages 14 and older, will make at least one purchase on Facebook in 2021. Meanwhile, 12.9 percent of internet users, or 32.4 million people, will make a purchase on Instagram, compared with 5.6 percent of internet users, or 13.9 million people, on Pinterest.
Another reason for China’s lead in social commerce is the sheer number of social buyers in the country. In 2021, eMarketer expect 424.4 million people ages 14 and up in China to make at least one social commerce purchase during the calendar year, versus just 90.2 million in the U.S.