Leveraging image recognition to bridge the gap between social media and e-commerce.

Leveraging image recognition to bridge the gap between social media and e-commerce.
Photo by Christian Wiediger / Unsplash

What is social commerce and why is everyone talking about it?

Social commerce refers to everything related to promoting and selling products through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. It simply introduces (a subset of) e-commerce functionality to social media platforms. Social commerce enables buyers to purchase items directly from a social network site or lead buyers to businesses’ web pages. Social commerce let sellers, and brands leverage the power of social media to increase sales and also connect directly to their customers, getting feedback directly from customers in real-time, customers asking questions about a particular product. In summary social commerce makes it easy for customers to discover your products and complete their purchase, reducing any friction that could lead to the abandonment of their purchase.

What is the connection between social media and shopping?

Social media has significantly altered consumer-brand relationships by enabling mutual communication between both sides. A new marketing strategy known as "Social Media Marketing" has emerged from this evolution.

People use the Internet as a medium for three primary reasons: information, entertainment, and social interaction. Social media fulfils all these needs in one way or another and can have an impact on purchasing behaviour in any service or product. The relationship between social media and consumer decision-making shows that social media influences advertising strategies, brand perceptions, and consumer purchasing goals.

According to a study from Forbes, a third of shoppers seek product information from social media influencers. "That's a higher percentage than those that say, Twitter, Snapchat, or Pinterest, the inspiration gold mine!"

Influencer marketing is nonetheless an important element of advertising strategy and a lot of said influencer marketing happens on social media.

How has social media evolved over the last decade and how’s that relevant to e-commerce?

Social media is a phenomenon that has transformed the interaction and communication of individuals throughout the world. However, social media is not a new concept - it has been evolving for nearly as long as there has been human interaction. In recent times, social media has impacted many aspects of human communication, including business.

A lot of platforms now offer tools to support business owners, influencers and other individuals that make a money from their use of the such platforms. Over the past 10 years, social media has largely evolved from keeping in touch with others to being a fully fledged ecosystem of apps for managing our social lives; or lives, period!

Where/How does image recognition come into play?

We'll do a more elaborate deep dive into  evolution of social media and how that's relevant to e-commerce. In the meantime however, we can straightaway say that lot of content on social media has become visual in nature. This article contains a handsome list of stats relevant to how big a deal visual content is nowadays.

500billion daily users on instagram
1.645 billion watch hours per month
An estimated 82% of all consumer internet traffic expected to be video by 2022 according to Cisco
… the list goes on.

The visual element is also what’s common to Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube. Other platforms like Twitter that don’t necessarily promote themselves as “visual first” platforms also have great support for images, videos and “stories”.

A lot of online commercial activities relies on capturing consumer intent through their expression and expressions that resonate with them. If consumers are now expressing themselves more visually and also consuming more visual content, then we need more technologies that can help us process these types of information at scale in order to be able to extract value from them for both business and customers.

What are some great examples of e-commerce and social media crossover?


Since 2020 Instagram has launched a feature to enable its users sell their products on Instagram. Sellers can tag their products within their Instagram posts. There’s also a shop where users can browse through all your products providing the native shopping experience


Pinterest offers a visual search feature that enables search for products that match a specific pin.

While this doesn’t come with a full shopping experience, it can be quite handy in discovering products and their vendors


Similar to Instagram, Facebook offers an online storefront where sellers can upload a catalog of their products, and users can navigate to the Facebook marketplace to browse and purchase items.

Twitter + Lykdat

At the time of writing, Twitter does not support any shopping experience or marketplace, however in combination with the Twitter bot @lykdatApp you can discover products by mentioning the bot under a tweeted photograph.

What could the future look like for social commerce?

Social commerce is fundamentally different from traditional e-commerce in that it involves consumers' day-to-day activities. It is poised to change the way we shop by allowing people to participate in the global economy as creators, consumers, influencers, and sellers. Every brand, retailer, and platform company will be affected by this, and this is a wave that no brand wants to ignore.

Accenture predicts that the opportunity for social commerce will nearly triple by 2025. In 2021, global social commerce sales are expected to reach $492 billion. The social commerce opportunity will be worth $1.2 trillion by 2025, growing at a 26% CAGR.

Perhaps this partly answers the question of why everyone is talking about social commerce.

It offers potentials for several convenient applications for consumers, it's relevant, it's lucrative, and most importantly, it's growing!