Spurred by the demands of a fast-growing virtual world, social media platforms have become the first point of introduction for consumers to find and follow their favorite brands or search for the latest trendy product. Whereas before one may have initially been intrigued by eye-catching packaging or visit a website to look for products to sign up for emails and keep up with the latest news, the interconnectedness of digital communities has consumers scrolling on social platforms to purchase products, browse brand updates and find information on the latest goods. With the release of Instagram Shops, TikTok’s partnership with Shopify and Facebook’s integration with WhatsApp, consumers can now shop for products they see featured on social, without leaving the app.

While in-app shopping isn’t something extremely new for online retailers, especially after a year-long global pandemic, consumers are also looking to buy quality products from brands that take a stand on societal and environmental issues.

Consumers are looking for brands to speak out and tell their narrative: the story behind their products and why they are driven to share them with the world. According to Forbes, searches for Black-owned businesses have increased by more than 2,500% in the last year alone.

Coupled with the growth in the maker movement, and social shopping providing small businesses with unrestricted access to almost any consumer, brands that don’t take a stand on social or cultural injustices will be looked over by consumers.

Additionally, brands that don’t keep up with the rising demands of consumers on social may find themselves being thrust into the spotlight by their own loyal following who demand more transparency and social change in their business practices. Cancel culture can easily take a brand down the second a post goes viral.

The rise of virtual communities on Discord, Clubhouse and Twitch provides brands the opportunity to discuss their values in live social settings, empowering consumers to purchase their favorite products because they believe in the brand and what it stands for.

Digital shopping will only grow as consumers adjust to the post-pandemic world. In the U.S. alone, more money was spent shopping online in April and May 2020 than during the last twelve Cyber Mondays combined. Research shows that number isn’t decreasing, with social commerce and live shopping expected to represent a $2 trillion market globally by 2024. The pandemic has even spurred exponential growth for social shopping across product categories, which were forced to pivot to operating in a virtual environment. As grocery stores limited visits, food and drink e-commerce soared by 53% in 2020.

Post pandemic, brands must rise up to meet the demands of these hybrid communities living at the intersection of the physical and virtual world. Consumers are looking for seamless ways to integrate with social media communities coming together on social platforms. Those brands who are successful in finding ways to holistically tell their narrative across social will be the most successful and remain positively relevant among the digital generation.