Woolies shoppers can now buy via Instagram, TikTok

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 26 May 2022
Liz Hillock, head of online and mobile at Woolworths.
Liz Hillock, head of online and mobile at Woolworths.

Local retailer Woolworths says it has invested heavily in ramping up its social commerce strategy, to enable shoppers to make purchases via Instagram and TikTok.

With over 3.5 million followers across seven social media platforms, Woolworths says it has among the largest combined social following within SA’s retail sector.

It is taking advantage of this position by partnering with the cream of South African and international social media influencers, it states.

While SA lags the rest of the world in terms of social commerce adoption, Woolworths says it has leveraged its dominance in social media by channelling funds into its online capabilities.

It has made several alterations to its digital advertising and retail strategies in efforts to expand its sales channels to Instagram and TikTok.

Social commerce can be defined as the use of social networking websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest as vehicles to promote and sell commercial products and services, according to Investopedia.

“Social commerce is predicted to grow three times as fast as traditional e-commerce by 2025,” says Liz Hillock, head of online and mobile at Woolworths.

“There are currently two different ways to shop on our Instagram channel, either via the built-in Instagram Shop functionality, where we build collections and encourage cross-shopping, or via our partner integration, which allows us to tag our customers’ Woolworths-inspired content, after obtaining their permission.”

The retailer says it has created a way to ensure TikTok links directly to a shoppable product basket, populated with South African TikTok's most loved products. It is also investigating a check-out process that can be completed directly on the social media channel.

According to research findings by World Wide Worx, SA’s e-commerce sales reached a tipping point in 2020, growing by 66% from 2018.

With global e-commerce sales growing exponentially, there has been a dramatic shift to social commerce. For example, in the US, social commerce sales are expected to reach over 7.8% of total e-commerce retail sales by 2024.

In SA, Generation Z is increasingly turning to social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok for their online shopping needs, according to online payments platform PayFast.

Viewing its social media platforms as an extension of its marketplace, Woolworths says it has applied this thinking to virtual try-ons, allowing customers try on make-up products virtually on Instagram, with the option to purchase straight from the platform – billed as a first in SA.

The retailer has also trialled a ‘phygital’ solution – integrating its social commerce capability with its physical presence through an in-store InstaShop, letting shoppers browse their digital friends’ Woolies favourites on Instagram, while having a physical browsing experience.

“There is extensive work being done by Woolworths in the phygital space, using both existing and emerging technologies to allow an in-store shopper to augment their browse with online functionality. Affiliate relationships with influencers also remain a very exciting space,” concludes Hillock.