Product data drives success in the social commerce age

The rise of social commerce has meant brands now have a larger number of digital channels in which they can connect with consumers in powerful ways, but only if they get product data right

Ecommerce has evolved at a rapid pace over the last two decades. Beginning with a simple website with a few products people could buy, the enormous growth of Amazon has transformed the business landscape, and ecommerce has taken on such a tight grip over the retail industry that more and more retailers have opted to become ecommerce marketplaces in their own right.

It is no longer just retailers wanting to become marketplaces but social media firms too, which has fuelled the latest wave of innovation: social commerce, in which social networks are increasingly integrating shopping and checkout capabilities. This is partly because they are seeking new ways to monetise their platforms, in light of tightening privacy laws threatening their core advertising businesses, but partly also because it’s where young consumers reside.

The pandemic, meanwhile, has only served to amplify the business case. The average time spent per day with social networks reached 65 minutes in 2020, up from 56 minutes in 2019, according to an Insider Intelligence report. It’s clear the dominance of ecommerce combined with store closures and social media usage growth has accelerated the rise of social commerce.

“The large social platforms have seen the opportunity to provide commerce capabilities in their existing walled gardens which they can control,” says Marcel Hollerbach, chief innovation officer at Productsup, an ecommerce data integration company. “Facebook launched Shops two years ago, Instagram checkout is available, TikTok is working on something similar. Fast-forward two to three years, I expect all the large platforms to have some sort of shopping and native checkout capabilities.”

This presents great opportunities for brands, which can have a direct relationship with consumers at a micro-targeted level, finding niche audiences among special interest groups that fit a particular buyer profile. Social commerce is attractive to brands and retailers because it is a real two-way medium of conversation with consumers. However, there are also big challenges.

Each digital channel has different requirements on how product details, including titles, descriptions, prices, availability, images and videos, need to be connected, uploaded and delivered. Some have APIs, some require CSV uploads, and some have other technical specifications. Beyond that, brands also need to contextualise the content depending on the channel. How you advertise on Tiktok is different from Facebook, which is different from Google.

“I think what’s even more interesting is that if you go into social, you don’t just contextualise for the platform but you can also contextualise for the audiences,” says Hollerbach. “You have maybe 50 different audiences that respond to your content, but perhaps you want to present your Nivea cream differently to a hipster from Berlin than to a family father. You can burn through a lot of money by not presenting the product in the right way. The result is a really bad return on ad spend and you are not connecting with consumers in the ways you could be.”

Productsup works with brands and retailers globally to help them syndicate the content and catalogues of all the products they sell across the whole ecommerce ecosystem. The company provides intuitive platform for product content integration, optimisation and distribution in commerce, enabling brands to validate, structure and enrich their product content for thousands of channels. With agile data and seamless connectivity, Productsup customers can get their products to market faster, scale their business and capture new opportunities as they happen.

“We’re a translation engine in the middle of brands and ecommerce,” says Hollerbach. “We know the specifications of all channels and we connect once to your product catalogue, which can be in a PIM system or commerce system, and syndicate it out. We then not only help you to contextualise for the channels but also for the audience, and sync orders across them. Social commerce is incredibly powerful, but you’ll only see that value with a platform like Productsup.”

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