Shoppers want to belong. They want to be heard. They crave a better buying experience. Power is shifting from the retailer to the shopper. Social commerce is filling the void between clicks and bricks to deliver this personalized experience.
Technologies are emerging to answer the challenge. Point of Presence (POP), location based proactive services, are combining with Point of Sale (POS) to influence, persuade, and guide shopping. Artificial reality and virtualization is enhancing interaction. Social media is evolving to Social Commerce to improve the in-store and more importantly the online experience.
Social commerce has been defined as “the use of social technologies to connect, listen, understand and engage to help improve the shopping experience.” I think this is how a brand can use social media, but not what Social Commerce “is.” It seems that the Social Commerce world is fixated on what they refer to as “frictionless commerce” vs. the value of relationships and how people share, recommend, advocate… AND influence.
The vast majority of discussion I hear centers around how to create direct sales by leveraging the social graph. This is important, but needs to be the final stage, not the way things begin. The relationship has to be built first, which then opens the door to build the emotional connection. Although most current examples reflect that the companies making the biggest inroads to increased sales are those that allow the most interaction/relationship building it seems most retailers have not been able to let go to that degree.
Brands, not retailers, are the ones doing the best job of nurturing and leveraging relationships. Seems it may be because they do not have the same pressure of next quarter performance, and the need to show direct sales to senior management, so have more leeway to nurture relationships and plan for the future.
The Social Commerce journey starts with curiosity and leads to Advocacy when relationships are allowed to grow and be nurtured. Sharing their great experiences, not just worthwhile products, is the key. Influencers, when/if they see the value, can create group habit by including the group in the before, during, and after. What seems clear is that it is important that Brands provide the tools to allow/encourage their audience to share the fact that they are buying… via input, reviews, forums… which in turn will enable the “group effect’ to help them grow, build their brand and foster the purchasing behavior.
The Social Consumer is empowered and has influence of her own. Be certain to provide the tools that allow this consumer to leverage the new found power. She wants a dialogue and wants to be heard and recognized. Influencers do not equal simple amplification of an offer/product value… but add depth and breadth to the relationship.
Facebook is not a channel for commerce, but a platform that can “enable” commerce. Many are mistakenly looking at FB as a channel, although most are quickly realizing this was a mistake and that people are not there to shop, but to share, recommend, and discuss… they are there to “Be Social.”
It seems to me the view/perspective I keep hearing is all about leveraging consumer’s social graph to sell more product. This is important, but when I hear the case studies, and see where true progress is being made, I hear more about interaction, engagement, and sharing… i.e. relationships. When I think about Social Commerce what seems to be the greatest opportunity is growing/nurturing the connection, participation and loyalty of a consumer, which in turn will build ROR… Return on Relationship. This is the first step required to make all this social integration sustainable and long lasting. Relationships are what will lead to the ability to sell more, not using customers to sell more product, but by facilitating/enabling feedback, sharing, reviews, and therefore build dynamic advocates who openly advocate product they love and are passionate about and influence others to do the same.
Remember… when it comes to Social Commerce, SHOPPERS HAVE THE POWER.