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Are we rebuilding the high street on Social Media?

by Chris Ailey

April 14, 2021

With the recent acquisition of Topshop and Miss Selfridge, two brands that have been on the high street for decades, ASOS leads the way in bringing the high street to users online. But how is social media supporting this? When the world was thrown into COVID-19 last year, almost everything and everyone were forced to go digital and social media platforms have adapted quickly to creating a more sophisticated social shopping experience for customers.

According to a recent study, “almost a quarter (23%) of UK shoppers now use social media to discover and buy new products”. But how are apps attempting to capitalise on this? And will the rise of this new digital high street result in more and more brick-and-mortar shops closing their doors for good? Let's explore some of the most recent e-commerce updates from some of the biggest social media platforms in 2021.


TikTok has exploded in the social space over the last year or so, so it’s no surprise that brands are keen to capitalise on its ever-growing audience and start advertising on the platform. And TikTok seems keen for that to happen, recently extending its commerce deal with Shopify, allowing over one million Shopify merchants to access 100 million more TikTok users. Retailers with a TikTok for Business account can run in-feed shoppable video ads with age, gender, behaviour and content targeting available.

With the TikTok algorithm being what it is, brands will need to take a different approach than they would on other social channels such as Facebook and Instagram. The focus instead, according to TikTok Europe’s Head of SMB, Lisa Friedrich, is that ads need to be “authentic”.

Storytelling and relatable content seem to do better than perfectly polished branded campaigns, and the popularity of the hashtag #smallbusiness, having been used over three billion times, suggests that users are using the platform to discover new products.

Our opinion:

Tik Tok doesn’t seem to be slowing down, and with the growing hundreds of millions of users downloading the app, it’s a great tool for getting your brand out there and spreading awareness. Is it a good tool for direct ROI currently? No. But it’s a great tool for spreading brand awareness, especially if you’re looking to engage with a younger audience. Top tip: Tik tok is all about the content – it has to be fun, catchy, authentic and light hearted.


One of the most developed in social commerce, Facebook has continued to perfect its seamless shopping experience, from discovery of brands through to purchase, with the launch of Facebook Shops in May last year. Facebook is continually adapting their approach, particularly now in light of the new iOS update which is set to impact a lot of their features.

Building on the introduction of Facebook Marketplace in 2016 – a place to buy and sell pre-loved or handmade items – Facebook Shops allow brands to customise their virtual storefront, select a catalogue of products to feature and promote themselves across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.

Jordanna Whayman, its EMEA product marketing manager for commerce, believes that Facebook Shops is “well-positioned to champion businesses of all sizes”, but will small businesses be able to see the same level of success as larger brands?

Our opinion:

Facebook is always at the forefront of their game when it comes to bringing that shopping experience to users. Not only have they been king of social media advertising, but now they’re bringing the full commerce experience to social media users with the introduction of Facebook and Instagram shops. This is a game changer for ecommerce on social channels, not only shortening the customer journey but also allowing for a more seamless experience by empowering users to checkout on the platform. Watch this space and watch out for other platforms following suit!


Snapchat and its parent company, Snap, are not off the radar yet. In fact, it continues to grow – surpassing 265 million daily active users last month. Its TikTok competitor, Spotlight, recorded 100 million active users too, which creates a wide audience pool for social commerce and ads.

The use of Shopify-integrated Dynamic Product Ads that appear near relevant content is one of the ways Snap is trying to capitalise on this. Not only are these ads shoppable, some also make use of AR (augmented reality), allowing users to “try on” products such as sunglasses, nail polish and makeup before making a purchase. This sets Snap apart from its competitors in the space, especially within the current retail climate – with non-essential stores closed as a result of COVID-19. With this, agencies are reporting clients making the shift from brick-and-mortar stores to digital catalogues, optimising for a number of different platforms.

Like Facebook, some brands have been allowed to set up virtual stores directly on the platform, alongside Minis (small versions of apps coded into Snapchat itself), which users may be seeing more of in the near future.

Our opinion:

Although it’s never been on the same level as the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in regards to bottom of funnel activity, Snapchat is actively making moves to become more ecommerce focused and match up to the other big platforms. In the wake of the pandemic, Snapchat has made it easier for brands to connect with their customers through highly personalised DPA ads. This will encourage brands to invest in and make use of Snapchat as not only an awareness tool, but to drive conversions at the same time. It certainly will be interesting to see if Snapchat brings through those conversion rates or not!


Pinterest is definitely one to watch, as the platform gained 100 million users last year. According to head of growth and shopping product, Dan Lurie, Pinterest is a “visual inspiration platform” rather than a social media app, however, it is still invested in guiding users towards relevant products, many of which can be purchased in-app.

An advantage Pinterest may have is that users may be more ready and willing to shop, and therefore more likely to convert. Pinterest, sets itself apart from other apps like Facebook and Instagram by promoting browsing for inspiration and ideas with ads as part of the process, rather than interrupting a user with ad content.

This promotes a more natural journey from inspiration to purchase, as products are integrated seamlessly within the base function of the app. And, considering 97% of the top searches on Pinterest are unbranded, there is plenty of opportunity for brands to come out on top.

Our opinion:

In line with the other platforms, Pinterest was quick to jump on the ecommerce opportunities that the pandemic brought to light. The best thing about Pinterest? Your users are already there, searching for the inspiration! You just need to ensure you’re finding those relevant users with engaging, relevant content. From the addition of the ‘shop’ tab in search to adding ‘shop similar’ to pins users are interested in, Pinterest may no longer be just a good awareness tool. Ultimately, you are meeting users where they have already shown an interest in similar products to yours – so make sure your content is attention grabbing and engaging!

Are you a retail brand looking to improve your presence on social media?
Honcho's Paid Social specialists have experience in creating and managing bespoke, effective campaigns across the biggest social platforms. Boost brand awareness, increase sales and meet your social marketing goals, with a little help from Honcho. Get in touch today 01438 870220 or email hello@honchosearch.com


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