The Evolution of Social Commerce: Trends to Monitor
Some key observations around trends driving the evolution of social commerce provide a new perspective on what is possible and available to brands looking to expand and improve how they address this opportunity.
A recent piece at UTalkMarketing discusses some of the key trends impacting the future of social commerce. Believing that there’s value in learning from other brands’ experiments in the space — and identifying what possibilities and options are available to brands looking to integrate ‘social’ into the core of their commerce systems — we’ve extracted and summarized some of the key observations from the piece:
- Facebook as both social and commercial channel: There’s a difference between selling products through a shop on Facebook, and selling products through a Facebook shop. The Facebook shop can invite comments and participation from friends before a user decides to ultimately purchase. The piece and its contributors cite retailer ASOS for its smart use of social commerce within Facebook. While several retailers currently encourage customers to share what they’ve bought from them, and to share photos wearing their finds across both their websites and Facebook pages, ASOS recently made a notable decision to launch a Facebook store that allows fans to browse, buy and share without leaving Facebook. Essentially, they brought their store directly to their page on the social network.
- The personal, mobile web also has a place in-store: QR codes and calls to action that lead to more interesting, educational product or lifestyle content, or a tool that allows users to gather their friends’ opinions before buying are ways of both recognizing that shoppers WILL do their own research while in store — and inviting them to derive value from doing so at your store.
- The social shopping cart: A personalized shopping cart — vs. a generic home page — can be populated and targeted to each individual visitor based on the purchases, ‘likes’ and recommendations of a user’s network and social interactions. Offering Facebook Connect as a ‘social sign in’ for visitors allows them to connect the site to their social network. Levi’s was amongst the first to implement this — though not yet linked to your personal network, they do feature products as ranked by total number of ‘Likes’ – which is, at least, a first step towards future personalization (we hope).
- From ‘targeted’ to ‘useful,’ and valuable: Targeting merchandise based on users’ behavior and data will continue to raise privacy concerns (which may explain Levi’s lack of personalization by connecting to your network); brands that want users to allow them to access and use their data need to demonstrate how this is valuable to, and benefits them. Allowing a site to connect to your social network could yield more relevant and interesting product recommendations and merchandise, weeding out the things that simply aren’t relevant to you (which may make more sense for retailers carrying a wider breadth of merchandise). A retailer can also demonstrate the value of more behaviorally-informed shopping by rewarding shoppers for their social interactions. Retailer Boden rewarded their community of shoppers for submitting offers and reviews, or for completing surveys, with loyalty points that could ultimately be converted into “money can’t buy gifts” including lunch with the company’s founder. Which leads us to…
- Rewarding interactions as key to social commerce: at the root of any business transaction is a value exchange. This equally applies to social commerce — if you want your shoppers talking about you to each other you need to be prepared to reward them for it, and to continue to build in incentives and rewards for those most loyal brand ‘ambassadors.’ Consider it a more qualified Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) than what you spend on media (and oftentimes can’t qualify the value of each new acquisition).
- The introduction of a single social currency?: Could Facebook credits be it? Will digital payment solutions finally deliver across both mobile and at keyboards? Time will tell how these are adopted and permeated by businesses, developers and consumers alike.
Lastly, we stumbled onto a very relevant piece today, with data indicating that Facebook Stores deliver the same sales rates as web sites. This may be preliminary (we haven’t yet delved into the data, inquired whether there was any cannibalization or give-and-take in profitability across platforms, or how it was compiled) but could offer initial support for the importance, and business promise, of social commerce.