Updated September 21st, 2016
Social commerce is a phrase that was first coined in 2005, and refers to how social media acts as a driver for online sales. There are many forms of social commerce, but they all encourage sharing of a product or brand, social validation, user-generated content, and content marketing. Examining some of the top social commerce trends will help shed some light on how your own website could better utilize social media to drive sales.
Up until the turn of the last century, interruption marketing was the law of the land. Billboards, commercials on radio and TV, even banner ads and popups are examples of interruption marketing. In return for content or a service, you had to endure some form of paid advertising. With the rise of the internet as the main source of media and content, marketing had to become more permission based. Instead of bludgeoning the public with a targeted message, brands and products had to relearn how to make consumers love them. Social media and e-commerce grew up together at the same time, and it turns out they go together like peanut butter and chocolate.
Social Network E-Commerce
Facebook added Pages for business in 2007, and later refined Pages in 2009. With Facebook Pages, businesses could add a Shop tab where they could display and sell items for a nominal monthly fee. Twitter wants to emphasize e-commerce going forward, possibly taking a small fee for transactions that originate on the site. Many companies currently use Twitter as part of their customer service, watching for mentions of their company name. Angry tweets are opportunities to solve a problem; and tweets that praise the company are recognized by the brand, ultimately gaining them an advocate. Pinterest is the other notable social commerce platform, where images or videos are curated by users. Pinterest is a marketer’s dream, as these images can link back to the originating product page.
What drives social spending from these sites? 74% of consumers use social as an indicator of whether they should buy a product or not. The social web is how we interact with others and consume data. When people we know share a brand or product on a social platform, we trust that personal recommendation. Also, brand loyalty increases when consumers have a favorable interaction with that company on social media, and are 74% more likely to purchase from that company.
Powerhouses like eBay, Amazon, and Etsy specialize in consumer to consumer sales, but also feature B2C sales. These sites encourage sharing, user reviews, public wish lists, and other forms of social sharing, turning purchases into a personal endorsement.
User Generated Reviews
Sites like Amazon and Yelp rely heavily on user reviews to create a rating system for products and establishments. By leaving their ratings, reviewers can earn rankings or badges, while directly influencing sales for the products or establishments being reviewed. Half of people aged 18–34 rely on user generated content to make a decision purchase, and 83% of consumers rely on user generated content to make a decision about financial services.
Through sites like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, consumers can directly fund the products or projects that they want to see created. Generally, higher level donations receive some sort of bonus for their help. Kickstarter projects must reach 100% of their goal to fund the creators, while IndieGoGo gives money to the creator projects even the project doesn’t reach it’s goal.
New sites such as Flattr, Patreon, and Tugboat Yards allow fans to pledge or sponsor their favorite creators via micropayments. This allows creators supplementary income in exchange for their business podcasts, videos, or music.
Web sites such as The Fancy extrapolate wish lists, as users curate and organize lists of products as recommendations.
Reinventing Traditional Shopping
Eyeglass manufacturer Warby Parker lets customers try five pairs of frames on at home first. The company provides a pair of eyeglasses to someone in need for each pair of glasses purchased. This idea of replicating the in-store experience, and letting customers feel good about supporting a cause makes Warby Parker an innovator in the social commerce space.
Sites such as Groupon and Living Social were huge a few years ago, but have been on the decline recently. These sites offer reduced prices on products or packages if a certain number of users agree to buy the package being offered. These group purchasing sites has had a difficult time turning a long-term profit, so their future remains in doubt for now.
Predicting The Future of Social Commerce Trends
Advertising will continue to fall to a secondary consumer signal as social continues to be a force in marketing and commerce. The line between social sharing and marketing will continue to be blurred. Innovative companies that have a solid social strategy in place now will be ready to capitalize, as mobile and social commerce continue to grow.