Social Commerce vs eCommerce: What’s the difference?

Social commerce vs. ecommerce. What's the difference and which one does your business fall under.

The online retail arena is booming, with more and more people flocking to online selling. If you ever step into this market, you may have heard of the two prominent names: social commerce vs. eCommerce. Have you ever been confused about these two terms? If so, read on because, in this article, we will walk you through an ultimate comparison between social commerce and eCommerce. 


Social Commerce vs. eCommerce: A Quick Overview. 

Social commerce and eCommerce both have some similarities, but they also have the niches that set them apart. Without further ado, let’s get on with the details!

What is Social Commerce?

First used in 2005, social commerce refers to a shopping experience where merchants sell their products directly on social media platforms. In short, social commerce is the use of existing social networks to do eCommerce transactions. 

In an increasingly competitive digital era, businesses have a growing tendency to use social media not to be left behind.  The year 1997 marks the first social media platform named Six Degrees. From that point onward, social media has come a long way. It has continuously developed into not only a communication tool but also a business platform. 

What is eCommerce?

eCommerce, also known as electronic or internet commerce, is the buying and selling and the transactions of money and data conducted via the internet. The whole sales experience happens on an online store based on an eCommerce platform or an app when it comes to eCommerce. 

eCommerce has evolved at breakneck speed since its first form was introduced 40 years ago. And now it is the top-notch option for online business.

Social Commerce vs. eCommerce: The Ultimate Comparison.

Market Potential 

More than 4.3 billion people are now using social media, equivalent to more than 50% of the world population. In a world where 9 in 10 internet users use social media and spend an average of nearly 2 and ½ hours on these platforms each day, businesses can tap this market. 

Moreover, social media is such a lucrative marketplace for businesses. “Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the global market for Social Commerce estimated at US$89.4 Billion in the year 2020 is projected to reach a revised size of US$604.5 Billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 31.4% over the analysis period 2020-2027”. (Social Commerce – Global Market Trajectory & Analytics from Research and Markets). 

Besides, it is often deemed that social commerce is an optimal choice for small retailers. However, more and more giant players are getting on board, making it more and more promising. Notably, Walmart plans to start selling its products via influencers directly on TikTok in 2021

Meanwhile, eCommerce has also evolved at a breathtaking pace. Global eCommerce sales hit nearly $4.29 trillion in 2020, with a year-over-year jump of 24.1%. This great number has been partly contributed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted the business landscape enormously. And in the context of the unpredicted COVID-19 pandemic movement, eCommerce is projected to grow to surpass $ 6.54 trillion in 2023 continuously.  

Ease of Use

Starting an eCommerce business is much simpler than building a brick-and-mortar store. Merchants can make use of a bunch of available eCommerce platforms with powerful built-in features. Note that you will have to appoint a qualified registered agent for eCommerce and physical stores unless you are running a sole proprietorship or partnership. With social commerce, you can get to the market even much easier and quicker. You can start your online selling within minutes with no initial investment cost using a social media account. 

If you opt for the eCommerce solution, choosing the right platform is the most daunting task. There are actually two types of platforms for e-merchants to choose from: hosted vs. open-source platforms. 

The former serves as an all-in-one shopping cart solution. Everything you need to do is pay for a suitable pricing plan and start setting up your online store without any technical knowledge. 

Meanwhile, starting with open-source platforms will save you a lot of money because most are totally free to download and install. However, it isn’t straightforward and challenging for you if you aren’t tech-savvy. 


Compared to traditional commerce, eCommerce requires a lower operational cost. However, this cost is even lower, nearly free when it comes to social commerce. You can start your online selling anytime, anywhere only with a social media account, which is totally free to register. 

For instance, if you want to start making money on Instagram, you only need to switch your standard profile into a business one – no setup cost. 

Customer Experience

In this hectic life, people crave convenience, which social commerce deserves a win compared to eCommerce. Social commerce allows users to shop while enjoying their usual social media experiences. Imagine that if we only have 2 free hours a day, shopping while updating news from our friends and relatives enables us to multitask, right? 

With social commerce, the entire customer shopping experience faces fewer interruptions as users can stay on-site during their shopping time. Moreover, while the buying lifecycle on eCommerce platforms entails several steps, social commerce offers a seamless customer journey with less time spent. Rather than being redirected to another site, users only have to view – click – buy to complete their purchase right on the app. 

Besides, social commerce makes the shopping experiences more interactive as users can easily share their shopping experiences with their friends. 

When it comes to customer support,  both social commerce and ecommerce offer their own customer support experience, but social commerce deserves a win. Social commerce offers two-way communication enabling buyers to interact directly with the sellers and get real-time chat. Therefore, you can effortlessly cultivate relationships with your existing and potential customers. 


Along with using marketing tools, posting your products on a social media platform is a means of marketing itself. Through ads campaigns, you can easily work towards increasing customer engagement and awareness. Paid ads or CTA “View Shop” appearing several times while users scroll and read their newsfeed can increase customer engagement. 

Besides, social media is a robust platform for gathering and analyzing customer’s shopping behavior. With that wealth of data, e-merchants can clearly understand their customers. Therefore, it enables sellers to create more targeted campaigns and an end-to-end marketing strategy to reach potential customers. 

Specifically, you can get your ads targeted to specific customer groups to achieve higher efficiency with lower marketing spend. For instance, you can tweak ads settings so that technological devices will appear mostly on the news feeds of people aging from 18 to 50 years old.

While social commerce is an optimal platform for ad marketing to boost sales and conversions, with eCommerce, you have to rely on many other marketing approaches such as email marketing, SEO, GG ads… You’ll need to search for the tools you want in the app stores and activate them on your eCommerce website. For instance, if you base your store on Shopify and want to boost traffic, access the Shopify App Store, search for an SEO plugin, such as Smart SEO, and activate it on your site. 

Long-term Growth Potential 

For small brands, social commerce with no setting cost, higher ease-of-use, and a strong customer base is definitely an optimal choice to thrive in such competitive and crowded marketplaces. However, when your business keeps scaling up, you might see social commerce as an imperfect choice. With many sellers on social media platforms, it becomes harder for you to build your brand’s identity, core values, and a long-term development strategy.

Having a specialized site makes your business more professional, helps increase brand awareness, and enables you to build your own customer base. 


If you choose social commerce, you will have to pay attention to privacy concerns because sellers and social media platforms will gather customers’ information. Therefore, there exists a nightmare scenario in which a data leakage happens. Although you can take some steps to protect your social media accounts, such as using a strong password or multi-factor authentication, getting a social account hacked is a piece of cake for fraudsters and hackers. 

Meanwhile, with eCommerce platforms, you can take control of your customers’ information and the security level of your online store. If you secure your store with a set of security standards such as GDPR, PCI DSS… you’re actually securing the data of your business and your customers. 

Social Commerce vs. eCommerce in a Nutshell

At the end of the day, social commerce and eCommerce both have their pros and cons. Based on the above comparison, I hope you can choose a proper platform for your online business model.   

Currently, not all social media platforms support social commerce. Therefore, if you want to go to social commerce, start with these prominent names like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Or else, WooCommerce, Magento, and Shopify are definitely optimal choices for your eCommerce business. 

If you don’t want to lean on a specific platform to maximize your profits, how about a combination of social commerce and eCommerce?

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