What does Social Commerce mean to you?

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This is a question I seem to get asked frequently when working with clients to build new ecommerce experiences and I am never quite sure what is the right answer to give.[highlight class="blue"]As a definition one could view Social Commerce as using an established social networking site to drive sales.[/highlight] However many social commerce sites predate the rise of the popular social networks, such as ebay for example; ebay, one of the most used social commerce sites out there, was founded in 1995 whereas popular networks such as Facebook did not become popular until around 2005.

This had led me to wonder, although clearly having a role to play within eCommerce, whether or not social networks can be considered a separate eCommerce channel in their own right… that one is still up for debate. Fundamentally, social channels are created for sharing knowledge, whether that’s on a personal level or at a corporate level, consumers subscribe to social media because they want to either share or be informed with a sense of current engagement, real time, the here and now.


 

Therefore using these channels to inform and influence consumers makes a lot of sense. It allows brands and retailers to deliver targeted, personalised content to a subscribed audience or to get to the heart of conversations that are taking place at a social level right now. [highlight class="blue"]And of course there is the highly sought after increased reach[/highlight], social media will increase your potential to reach a larger and a wider audience.  So in terms of Social as another form of media and communication, social is proven and works well but to see it as a pure commerce channel? I find that concept more challenging.

We’ve seen through the evolution of retail commerce and eCommerce that the world has moved from retailers treating their eCommerce store as just another outlet that competed with the physical stores, to multi-channel, whereby it became recognised as an important channel (increasingly the only channel). Albeit often run somewhat independently to the here and now, the Omni-channel, multiple sales and distribution channels that cohesively act as one channel for the consumer and should provide the retailer with a single view of their consumers.

The [highlight class="blue"]ultimate driver[/highlight]though for these multiple channels is the empowerment of the consumer to ensure retailers provide them choice, as with the advent of tablets and smart phones, consumers now have more channels for research, compare, review and consume. If we look at the trend in retailer requirements when building eCommerce platforms today, then social integration is key and a must have requirement, yet for what reason?

From a functional perspective having a [icon class="facebook"]Facebook[/icon] log-in allows consumers to use an existing set of User credentials, therefore consumers have fewer log-ins and user accounts to worry about. It allows them to bookmark and share potential purchases with friends. This integration with a Facebook store for shopping has shown to be successful but never as the main shopping channel. Ultimately, Social becomes an extended marketing channel with the capabilities of shopping around specific items, it allows retailers and brands to promote via social communication with the added benefit of driving impulse buys and whilst is can work for individual purchases it doesn’t however replace the ability for consumers to browse and shop as they would on a conventional eCommerce store. 

[highlight class="blue"]Social commerce for me is about the single item transaction[/highlight]; it’s about capturing new consumers at a relatively low cost of acquisition, or maintaining existing purchasers within your loyalty loop. I believe it is about leveraging the wisdom of the crowds and gaining that extra reach, as once they’ve been captured, it’s about moving them into your online store. I do not believe social commerce will ever replace ecommerce and traditional bricks and mortar stores. Here retailers have invested time and energy learning how consumers shop to provide the ability to up sell, cross sell, to increase the basket size and treat the consumer to their brand experience.  Social commerce or  [icon class="cart"]‘social shopping’[/icon]is more like buying from a vending machine, you possibly weren’t looking for it but you’ve just come across one, it doesn’t give too much information, it’s quick, convenient and hopefully works (as sometimes your purchase gets stuck) but it’s not a shopping experience. 

 


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