Social Commerce: Shopping Meets Social Media

10 Reasons to Use Social Commerce

Social Commerce is where social media, content and collaborative tools meet online shopping. Understand that social networking doesn’t necessarily translate to social commerce. Consumers are used to social interactions around shopping because the average consumer mentions specific brands over 90 times per week in conversations with friends, family, and co-workers, based on Keller Fay findings presented at WOMMA, 2010.

Why are retailers adding social commerce to their mix?

While shopping is essentially a social experience, think girls shopping at the local mall, online shopping is distinctly not social. Yet, regardless of where the purchase is made, many shopping decisions involve more than one individual’s input, be it a couple, parent and child, or friends. With evolving technology, notably increased use of smartphones, and social media platforms, online shopping is changing and becoming more social. Roughly three out of four consumers rely on social networks to guide their purchase decisions according to Gartner, July 2010. As a result, it’s a no brainer to sell where your customers are rather than trying to lure them to your site.

Social commerce is a nascent market that encompasses a broad array of options including group buying, social shopping, mobile apps, retailers adding social features, and shopping integrated into social media. Social commerce has taken off recently and is a growing trend as reported by Google.

10 Reasons etailers use social commerce.

Here are ten reasons to add social commerce to your mix.

  1. Change way products are brought to market. Allow customers to vote on the product they want to purchase. Threadless was an early entrant into this market.
  2. Build brand awareness cost effectively. Many companies use social commerce and social shopping to increase the number of conversations about their products and/or brands. This has the added benefit of increasing customer trust.
  3. Expand target audience. By using social media platforms, social commerce features and social shopping networks, retailers can increase the market for their products.
  4. Enhance product discovery/awareness. Allow customers to curate content related to your products on your website or a third party social commerce website. Further, some retailers and/or social commerce sites can personalize the shopping experience based on customers’ preferences.
  5. Create social media content. Since social media thrives on new information, prospects, customers and fans enhance these sites with their input and suggestions as well as voting on and sharing product related content. One advantage of this is to leverage content produced by influencers.
  6. Enable peer recommendations. Since consumers trust other consumers, incorporating peer reviews and ratings into your website or third party media sites helps qualify and sell product. Amazon was the original review site. Don’t overlook sites like TripAdvisor that are focused on a specific vertical.
  7. Expand relationships with others who share your tastes. Social shopping enables customers to build relationships with others who have similar product tastes, even though they may never meet in real life.
  8. Offer group buying opportunities. By getting customer purchase commitment, companies make great offers to the public or a targeted market. The best-known examples are Groupon and Social Living.
  9. Develop social shopping opportunities. Enable customers to purchase on social media networks to increase the likelihood that they’ll buy. 1-800-Flowers was the first retailer to test shopping from Facebook’s news feed.
  10. Connect bricks and mortar stores through use of mobile. From a retailer’s perspective, this is a double-edged sword. Consumers can get more information on your products via their smartphone and QR codes but they can also check your competitor at the same time.

Armed with their smartphones and computers and a wide variety of options and platforms from which to choose, consumers are using and adding to the new social shopping environment. Many retailers are ready for them. They’re looking to engage with prospects and customers as they enter the market rather than risk loosing them to more savvy competitors.

Social commerce continues to expand and evolve. For retailers, the challenge is determining how to test and enter that market. When deciding, let your overall business goals help guide you.

Are there other reasons to use social commerce in your sales mix? If so, what are they and why would you add them?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

P.S. Once you get your customers, don’t forget to thank them. Here’s 100 ways to celebrate your customers.

Big hat tip to Social Media Week New York where Social Commerce (#SWMCommerce) was the basis for a lively panel with presentations made by Dotbox, Totsy, 1-800-Flowers, Kaboodle, Stylecaster and Consumr.  Here are the slides from their presentations.

Photo credit: Alicia Nijdam via Flickr

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6 Responses to Social Commerce: Shopping Meets Social Media

  1. Heidi, your 10 points are spot on, especially group buying. I don’t think its long before social commerce expands into other forms of media. I think interactive entertainment media will push in this direction as well.

  2. Gary Fox says:

    Great post and so good to see other people writing about social commerce. Building this into a retailers touch points just makes sense when they can extend how and when they engage with their customers.


  3. Joey Muller says:

    Good article, Heidi. I would also say social media provides a great forum for praise and complaints. I think we’ll see more and more integration of web apps like Get Satisfaction and Disqus to turn our comments and questions into socially networked snippets of brand fodder.

  4. Matt Scoble says:

    Heidi: Great post on a busy segment–in fact, I think there is a lot of confusion around what “social shopping” is all about and am glad to see folks like yourself address the topic. I like your list of reasons in your post but most of those look at the issue from the retailer’s perspective. From the consumer’s perspective, sites should add social shopping features/functions because it is time to move away from the online experience being a “one-size-fits-all” model. Personalization and the ability to tailor an online shopping experience to ME is a meta-trend that all site owners need to think seriously about. If you’re interested, touch base with me to see the kind of change Quorus is enabling in this segment.


    Matt Scoble

  5. Rob Petersen says:

    Heidi, Great post! Every one of your 10 reasons are spot on. It also makes inherent sense the more time people spend on social networks, the less time they are going to want to spend logging on and off. Instead, they’ll just want the retailers they like and the reviews they want on the social networks they use. Thanks again.