Product Discovery On Social Platforms: The Future of Retail

6 Min Read |

Beauty purchases have been impacted heavily by social media, whether through influencers or content. With the functionality of shoppable experiences increasing dramatically, we can no longer ignore the value of these platforms as true retail marketplaces. Beauty brands must consider social platforms central to any retail strategy. These platforms no longer serve as forums for separate advertising; rather, they have evolved into marketplaces in their own rights.

These three key trends remain at the forefront:

The New Haul

Environments like TikTok, Snap, and Instagram Reels have given rise to a new type of beauty haul. Platform algorithms gain knowledge of interests over time, helping brands serve the most relevant type of product. The tools across these platforms have raised the bar on creativity when it comes to creating a visually appealing illustration of love for a new lipstick, a vibrant eye shadow kit, or an effective skincare treatment. According to Common Thread Collective, the beauty industry will see a 48% uptick by 2023, a percentage only bolstered by the pandemic. Online reviews are one of the top drivers of sale, second only to a deal or discount on the product.

Virtual Makeup Counter

AR capabilities continue to improve, allowing consumers to visually “try on” certain beauty products, whether colors to skin matching elements. These tools also eliminate the friction of having to go in-store for purchase. Chanel’s recent lip scanner launch embodies this technology, allowing users to scan any color and get matched with a shade of their lipstick. Once identified, it also allows consumers to “try on” the shade virtually.

Snap, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest all have built versions of AR technology, some more natively than others, that enable these unique experiences, closely tying the virtual experience to direct sales. For example, Coty used Snap Lens to connect AR lens to sales, while M.A.C. Cosmetics used Instagram shopping for an exclusive for the launch of their “Selena La Reina” line and sold out in one minute. All indicating a consumers like the digital access and ability to discover products and buy live.

Democratization of Expertise

Platforms that allow tutorials and video DIY in the beauty category are ripe with audiences seeking expertise – and influencers willing to lend it. This democratization of knowledge extends to all categories, ranging from home decoration to skin care to make-up artistry. The beauty industry has seen success with enabling its talented, influential customer base to use their products and, ultimately, create works of art. Consumer interest in and engagement with beauty influencers had led brands to consider those spokespeople as top components in their respective marketing mixes. Consumers love it, evidenced by sales and other extensions in the market, whether via contests or reality serieses like Netflix’s Glow Up.

As these behaviors gain prevalence, social platforms have leaned into developing shoppable functionality, providing a new digital shopping experiences and creating a new sales force. Now, users can purchase items virtually within a single experience. Plus, these platforms serve as business resources that offer valuable consumer insights. For example, brands can watch Instagram interactions as as signals for point of sale, as well as spaces for mining product insight and predict future demand. These social retail environments possess an agility that allows brands to easily and rapidly implement prototyping too, testing virtual bundles before large scale rollout.

These platforms provide unprecedented business value, leading to an increase in demand for tools to manage CMS and influencer sourcing. For example, Replika, which allows brands to create social virtual storefronts and enable consumers to become their own sales force, carries a new type of influence; it provides more seamless connectivity to those who love a brand, with the capability to make content shoppable as scale without the limitatioons of a single social platform. These tools take the manual management of infleuncers and enable it centrally for all parties to interact and refresh content.

Pinterest has taken couponing to transaction, as a platform where consumers pin inspiration and aspiration. Items on the platform now get promoted with discounts online or in-store at point of sale. Relationships like Pinterest and Ibotta – or TikTok and Shopify – allow for sales platform integrations that give customers direct access, making the process of selling fluid.


These communities represent endless consumer feedback for service, needs, and product evolution, functioning as an integral insights loop. Brands have the opportunity to set up infrastrucutres to learn from reviews, taking a proactive approach to optimization.

What It Means for Marketers

Brands must consider the same elements they would across other digital sales environments, addressing key questions such as:

  • How do you create an authentic experience on the platform and allow the customer to engage with the product?
  • What is the value proposition to the customer, how can you bring it to life?
  • Are you activating influencers or ambassadors and tagging products appropriately?
  • Are the content and product feeds consistent and regularly optimized?
  • Is native checkout implemented through our Storefronts on Shops?
  • Are there exclusives or unique offers or bundles we can create?
  • Are we monitoring of referrals and sales data from the channel?
  • What valuable insight into customer and their needs can we apply to future business and product development?

Through navigation and functionality improvements, social retail platforms allow consumers to discover new influencers and content, as well as product and services of interest. For beauty advertisers, the value lies in the reality that product discovery, trial, and purchase can happen in one session, much like a trip to the local pharmacy or storefront location. To create an enjoyable experience that leads to a meaningful relationship with the customer, beauty marketers must take a consumer-centric approach that emphasizes ease and seamlessness across the various social platforms.

About the author: Jessica Richards, EVP, Managing Director, Commerce North America

Jessica joined Havas Media Group in 2010 as a true Digital Marketing expert. She leads the Commerce group for Havas Media Group in North America, Havas Market. Jessica oversees a team of experts focused on helping brands create better shopping experience for consumers, allowing them to find products easier and buy more seamlessly, whether through direct to consumer strategy, via eRetailers or driving In Store. Her experience covers all facets of marketing from traditional media, digital trading, social strategy, emerging tech & data management.