Social Commerce: Where Social Media & Shopping Meet
Social media is here to stay. We passed the point of no return long ago when Facebook became a household name, and since then, countless other social media ventures have made their roots in Internet networking, like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and the most recent social media addiction, Pinterest. People love the web and socializing too much for there ever to be a “back” button.
But it’s unlikely that social media will stay the way it is today. In a time of revolutionary technology and groundbreaking innovations in the digital age, advertising and marketing are expected to change more in the next five years than they have in the past fifty. In fact, if we were to hit the “forward” button on our browser, what we find might be very interesting. Mark Zuckerberg said it in 2010: social commerce is the next big thing.
Okay. E-commerce, f-commerce, s-commerce – so what exactly is social commerce and why is there so much anticipation in the air surrounding this term?
Social commerce, a relatively new phrase, has various definitions floating around, but the simplest way to put it is this: people shop online and people socialize online – social commerce is the burgeoning, intentional merging of these two realms. Think posting a message to a Facebook friend about a great deal on a vacation you just bought and want to recommend. This word-of-mouth recommendation (which might have just taken place privately before) now has a wider audience online (your friends can see and comment on it). For good reason, retailers are noticing the marketing potential of this type of behavior; the space is growing for online users to talk about purchases, recommend items and seek out special deals. Essentially, social commerce combines online social networking, which is already strong, with new ways of buying – and sharing – online.
Here are 5 examples of social commerce in the works:
- “Like,” “Want,” and “Own” buttons: It’s not enough to just “like” something these days. Now we have the ability to share our shopping purchases (and wannabe purchases) online through social media. The company 8thBridge has been pioneering social commerce software for individual websites for a while, but now Facebook wants in on the action and is test-driving their own internal “want” buttons. The social commerce company AddShoppers.com has streamline adding buttons for Facebook shopping – “Want” and “Own” in addition to “Like” - and once a button is activated, it automatically translates into a “Shoppable Story” that can show up in your friends’ new feed, potentially attracting more interest in the item at hand. What online business doesn’t “want” that?
- LocalResponse: Most people are already pretty familiar with using social media on their mobile phones and “checking in” at local restaurants, bars and venues. Now, with LocalResponse’s digital closing of the circle, checking in somewhere could net users instant coupons or other incentives to stay and shop. The way it works is this: LocalResponse aggregates mobile check-in data and connects it to the business, then the business is able to respond to the user via Facebook or Twitter and offer them something special for checking in. The user gets a personalized coupon just for letting the world know they were there. What a nice little reward for the customer, and valuable marketing data for the company.
- The ShopSocially Experience:People love to shop. They also love to go online, share things they find with friends and get special deals. The ShopSocially app platform heightens the online shopping and social networking experience by offering fun and unique social buttons. Even more specialized than the “want” buttons, Share-a-Promotion, Ask-a-Friend and Share-a-Purchase buttons allow users to connect their ecommerce activity with friends in many different ways. For example, Share-a-Promotion allows the user to unlock a special deal if they share it with friends, the Ask-a-Friend app allows users to ask their friends for advice on shopping interests, and Share-a-Purchase is exactly like it sounds: users can share their purchase with friends for social recognition, as well as buyer incentives. ShopSocially is one of those social commerce apps that really strives to give consumers a richer online shopping experience while at the same time providing a valuable way for retailers to spread the word about their products.
- Refer A Friend: One of the best parts of online social networking is connecting with friends and finding similar interests. Who doesn’t love finding out that a friend you haven’t seen in a while also “likes” an obscure band or product you just discovered? The Internet can show people the common ground they stand on like never before, and so can social commerce. Just as you can recommend that a friend “like” a page, users are also increasingly able to refer a really great service, product or deal to a friend online. And they usually get a reward for doing so. Good for the shopper, good for the business and potentially good for the friend. There are numerous social media platforms for this, like ReferralCandy.com, which offers personalized referral e-mails for secret deals and special coupon incentives for social media sharing, and CureBit.com, which offers specialized referral campaigns that are easily trackable and measurable.
- Chirpify: With the word “chirp” in the name, you already know this social commerce endeavor specializes in the Twitterverse. Chirpify allows users to buy products straight from Twitter without any devices or cards. Here’s how it goes down: the brand or business tweets a special deal, and when a user replies to that tweet with the word “buy,” (after creating a Chirpify account) the product is automatically charged to the PayPal account associated with that username. Now that’s quick service. Easy and hassle-free, this caters to the want-now, buy-now mentality, and works well for limited time offers that customers just can’t bear to pass up.
These are only a few of the rapidly emerging s-commerce platforms that are soon to become commonplace. According to a study by socialcommercetoday.com, since about 81% of shoppers receive advice from friends and family online and 74% of shoppers are influenced by social media when purchasing items, everyday social commerce is just around the corner and only going to become more familiar. Social commerce is expected to net $30 billion by 2015, and we’re already seeing conferences sprout up that are totally devoted to the topic. For example, in late 2010, Palo Alto, CA held a conference called “The Rise of Social Commerce,” where people spread advice about how to get in the game early. It highlighted how new technologies, like Point of Presence (POP), which is much like what LocalResponse is doing, can influence and guide shoppers.
We’re living in a time when 2-D advertising is an old dog’s trick; increased innovation and interaction are the way of the future. Social commerce involves users in the act of shopping more so than ever before, and gives them a voice and a space for feedback, which in turn encourages more and more interaction. It’s somewhat of a self-perpetuating cycle, and with mobile technology everywhere, social media and e-commerce are quickly becoming attached at the hip for good. The ways we talk with each other, share things with each other and now buy things with each other are all merging in the ether of the Internet. For online retailers, s-commerce is going to be a big ticket item, so it’s worth it to jump on board while the idea is still fresh.