Social Commerce – The Growing Trend of Social Media Shopping

In social commerce, the target audience is already pinpointed and specific products and services can directly be marketed to said audience by means of various sites. For instance, a specific fan site would be interested in one product alone and that is anything that has to do with the fandom they are affiliated with. Through social e-commerce, brands and businesses are given an opportunity to create or perhaps sell already existing products to that specific fandom. The task of gathering a target audience and getting them all to land in one online seller webpage is thereby eliminated. The social media website becomes the main selling site. It is basically social shopping made easy.

Among the more popular social commerce platforms today is Facebook commerce. Almost everyone on the planet has a Facebook account. Within Facebook, there are fan pages designed to represent public figures, brands, organizations, and basically everything else that exists which is not a “personal account”. Fans and supporters become members of these fan pages and within that simple page, they are presented with sub pages that relate to the fandom they support. These pages contain social shopping features. Whether it’s an artist that sells the next single or a production studio that is selling the latest film video, Facebook commerce delivers an avenue for the sellers to meet the buyers.

A lot of sales and revenue have been generated by brands and businesses taking part in social media commerce. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social networking sites on the Internet has made shopping quite easy for the registered members. They have built-in credit verification and payment systems that allow users to purchase whatever the website has to offer. It becomes very simple for the consumers. They simply log on to their Facebook accounts and if they find something they fancy, they can easily purchase it right then and there. This has definitely added much to a company’s income. Social commerce is truly one point of sale that is worthy of investment.

There are many ways to enhance a brand’s presence in social media websites. However, there are resources out there which can help a business in pursuing the best road towards a successful social commerce. Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of today’s popular social media websites are not showing any signs of decline when it comes to mass patronage. Surely, more and more people with more and more buying power will become members of the websites. And these members will not hesitate in clicking away on Ads and other shopping features that are very accessible within their own social account pages. It has been alleged that by the year 2015, the business of social media shopping will have skyrocketed to an astounding USD 15 billion value. This is why businesses have taken steps towards participating in social commerce marketing.

The New Social Commerce Revolution and the S-Commerce Wave

It isn’t too long ago when e-commerce was the topic of dialogue everywhere on the internet. E-commerce was a hot topic because it broke the bounds of traditional offline commerce. Web 1.0 began with that. In a short few years, Web 2.0 dawned on us with more users online interacting with each other. Videos and high-speed broadband made syndication possible and with that the sharing of content began as well. Blogging has now become the way of life. Forum participation caught on fire. YouTube became a house-hold term for everyone on the net.

Web 2.0 took another giant leap forward. Traditional blogging is paving the way to micro-blogging as the preferred route. Twitter led the way and still to-date continues to dominate. It has become very easy for anyone to share their thoughts, news, opinions, reviews, opinions and agreements to other people’s thoughts and views, and to share links of what they like and what they do not like, all in a 140 character snippet. “Viral” marketing truly caught on fire. Social began to take new shape with the coming together of social networks. Facebook has made it possible for users to interact with people they want to associate with and know/trust, with ease and in style. Social Media Marketing and Social Networking have become synonymous with Facebook. Facebook, with its 600 plus million user community, has taken the world by storm, sufficient to say that Facebook would be one of the top most populous places, if it were a country. Facebook could well be a country on its own and a bank too with its social currency! Today, people live, sleep and wake-up with Facebook and social has become the new standard.

The world of internet commerce is on the path towards transformation again, and for the good. The wonderful world of e-commerce and the awesomely addictive world of social networking are coming together. E-commerce and Social Networking are joining forces and the result is fascinating. Welcome to Social Commerce!

Wikipedia calls Social Commerce as the “Use of social media via social interaction and user contributions to assist in the online buying and selling of products and services”. What exactly is the meaning of this and how can this be useful? Simply put, people trust other people than products, brands or companies. When people hear good or bad things about anything, whether a product or a service, and the more they hear about it in a particular direction (good or bad), they naturally incline to the decision that the product or service is as-such, without having to try the same themselves. This does make perfect sense and is applicable for our everyday life. References, feedback and reviews are worth gold, obviously. In the space of electronic commerce, with its difficulties around buying or selling products or services remotely, where one cannot touch and feel the offering prior to buy, will particularly benefit from social interactions and user contributions in a manner that is beyond words. Rather than simply purely depending on what the vendor claims, we can finally actually see what the users of the product or service feel, prior to committing ourselves to buy.

Social Commerce is equally applicable to services as it does to products. Social Shopping is fast becoming the way to buy products today. With services, Social Marketplace is gaining traction as the way to seek and fulfill services. Just in the first quarter of 2011, nearly $2 billion has been invested by Venture Capital firms across the varied facets of Social Commerce, whether in group-buy, social shopping or in social marketplaces. Business has found its new ways. Social Commerce is the way forward.

Social Commerce – Is It the Next Big Thing?

Earlier this week, the world’s largest retailer Amazon tied-up with the most popular social-networking and microblogging site Twitter to enable customers to shop through Twitter. Once you sync up your Twitter and Amazon accounts, you will be able to see any tweet with links to Amazon products. You can then order it right away by replying to that tweet with a pre-determined hashtag #AmazonCart.

The earlier experiments combining social media and ecommerce for shopping did not see much of a success. Even analysts view social media as more of an awareness platform than for shopping. From a business perspective too, APIs like Facebook Commerce are more about giving the businesses information about their buyers such as their likes and dislikes etc.

Will this pioneering step from Amazon be a success? Well, we’ll have to wait and watch.

Current Experiments
There most common social integration strategy is where a merchant may prompt you to share your purchase on social media so that it can possibly motivate someone from your network to buy the same. Another instance is where you will be able to see a list of product recommendations which you may end up buying. Group buying and sharing information about new deals etc. are also a part of social commerce techniques. While all these utilize social media to an extent, none of them have ventured into enabling buying through a social networking platform until Amazon stepped in.

Major retailers are already on their social way and embedded their own social e-commerce tools directly into their websites. A good example of this would be the fashion retailer ASOS which has a social media forum where their customers can discuss about the latest trends in fashion. And, they have seen upward movement in their sales numbers too owing to these discussions.

Some of the most innovative use of social media we have seen is conducting live events like product launches online and enabling customers to talk among themselves and with the company through a social platform. This level of engagement is a sure win for the organization and can create the maximum buzz and brand recall.

Should you go social?
Yes, yes and yes! As we have been saying always, inclusion of a social strategy in your e-business is the right way to go about and will augment your marketing and sales strategies in many ways. It will be especially useful for engaging with your customers and more importantly improving your brand awareness through wider traffic to your site. However, having said that, it is too early to implement on a “social buying” system. It will be good to wait until a commercially viable platform comes up based on the success of the present experiments.

Do let us know if you’ve seen some innovative use of social media by businesses. We’d love to hear from you!