Ever wondered about…Social Commerce?

JC Penney Facebook StoreWhat is it?

It’s where shopping and social collide, by embedding social touchpoints in the selection, consideration, and purchasing processes.

At the crux of it is recommendation and sharing. Early examples are Amazon’s reader reviews (which are proven to be powerful) and eBay’s seller ratings. And now it’s moving beyond reviews. For example, @asos allows you to share (by tweet and various bookmarks) and ‘Like’ items direct from their e-commerce site, letting your friends and network know what you like, have bought, or recommend. It works experientially too: Diesel installed booths in their Spanish stores to allow customers to post pictures of themselves in Diesel clothing to Facebook walls.

It plays strongly to sharing and the idea of trust and recommendation economies. Greater conversion rates and increased word-of-mouth (WOM) are the clear benefits.

Why should I care?

Social interactions are becoming central to the way we make buying decisions, so social commerce is a natural development and can play well to many brands and services.

And of course the big news is that by integrating platforms like Facebook and e-commerce ‘shopfronts’, valuable data can be extracted about purchase history, buying habits, Likes and sharing.

But what needs to happen is for social commerce to work seamlessly alongside campaigns, physical shopping experiences and other channels – particularly advertising and mobile.  So expect to see increasingly sophisticated approaches.

Who’s doing it well?

You’d expect FMCG brands to have got a handle on this and sure enough there are some good examples out there:

  • Levis launched the Friends Store, a retail site which integrated Facebook, thus encouraging sharing, interaction and brand advocacy.
  • Retailer JC Penney recently launched a Facebook store where – critically – transactions can be completed without leaving Facebook.
  • But it’s not just about Facebook. French Connection launched last year “Youtique” on YouTube, which allows shoppers to click and buy directly from a video.

It’s all well and good for big brands, you might say.  But the rest of us had better get used to social ubiquity in the buying process, whether for consumer products or business services. Using Facebook login, for example, could create a nice opportunity for businesses to connect similar types of users and clients to share experiences, as well as getting closer to and more personal with the people who make buying decisions. But there needs to be a reward for the user in this scenario – connect with Facebook to access free content, for example, or to participate in an online event – or register for an offline one.

Here’s an excellent infographic from Social Commerce Today: 2010 – A Year in Social Commerce.

Kate Spiers is director at Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency with a passion for technology and a pragmatic approach to social media.  If you’d like to talk about embedding social touchpoints in your customer interactions, please get in touch!


One Response to “Ever wondered about…Social Commerce?”

  1. That’s a nice piece. I think if you’re talking fashion you need to be thinking about Polyvore, FashionFreax, Fashiolista and all the various other fashion orientated social networks/thingamibobs. Facebook operates at a totally different level of marketing’s AIDA model to these; often it’s at the very fringe of people’s awareness of a product. Polyvore and the other fashion networks are more at the interest/desire stage. Whilst we used Wishpot Social Commerce to allow our products to be shared more easily through Facebook, we still consistently see higher clickbacks and ROI from (in order!):

    – email (I’m talking user to user tell-a-friend rather than email marketing)
    – Polyvore
    – Facebook
    – Twitter

    To put that in a bigger perspective, we still see less than 5% of overall revenue originating from social, with blogs still driving greater conversions, although they drive less traffic for us if we exclude our own. That’s not to paint a bleak picture for Social, simply to say that we, as digital marketeers, have spent a decade educating people to Google an answer. As much as channel shift has brought people from the high street to the net, I’m not forseeing that the behaviour will be undone anytime soon. People get social with companies to learn about them or have fun with them but Google is still where they turn when they want to make a decision and outside of the marketing community social media usage is quite different.

    That raises an interesting question as to whether a highly social retailer who ranks say #2 on Google, would enjoy a better conversion rate than a social inactive competitor who ranked higher. Any data or experiences with that?

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