The six types of social commerce solutions
There are a variety of categorization models available to "bucket" social commerce solutions and companies. The European agency SyZyGy developed an excellent categorization model for social commerce solutions and providers. Those who are looking for more than a top-line view of the category would do well to visit the site Social Commerce Today. I'm going to do my best to do it justice by providing a capsule summary of the market segmentation model, which classifies categories and companies into six groups:
The common denominator in this set of services is empowering people to simultaneously shop online with others. The category encompasses group buying (e.g., Groupon and Living Social), socially empowered shopping experiences (i.e., an online store using Facebook Connect to enable a richer and more interactive shopping experience onsite), stores within social networks (e.g., Facebook stores), group gifting (e.g., eBay's GroupGifts service), and social shopping portals such as Kaboodle.
Ratings and Reviews
One of the most ubiquitous forms of social commerce, these services allow consumers to rate and leave comments about goods and services. The largest such platform is probably Amazon.com, which includes ratings and comments on virtually every item offered. While we often think about these as simple text based recommendations, services such as ExpoTV and Zuberance have expanded this category to include video and encourage recommendations.
Recommendations and Ratings
This category focuses more on recommendations for specific audiences, rather than universal availability -- social referral programs (e.g., Extole) fall squarely into this category. The key difference between these offerings and those in the previous category is that the recommendations group generally uses the personal networks of participants to spread the message, whereas the services in the previous category are available to any viewer.
Forums and Communities
Forums and communities have been around almost as long as the internet itself. In the context of social commerce, these terms refer to brand-sponsored venues for the sharing of information. Examples might include a Mercedes Owners Club, or the American Express Open Small Business community. Here people organically share information and advice related to categories and products.
Social Media Optimization
This category refers to the use of social media to drive more qualified traffic to an online sales environment. It encompasses using social for SEO, link building, offer and deal feeds, company news feeds, and other means by which links can be disseminated.
Social Ads and Applications
Here the focus is on socially empowered ad messages. The range includes socialized ads, social shopping apps, and remote catalogue or shopping units.