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The latest trends in social commerce

The latest trends in social commerce Jeff Ragovin

Social commerce and Facebook commerce, or "F-commerce," are no doubt buzzwords that marketers have been hearing about for years. Each year we wait with baited breath, contemplating the arrival of "the year of social commerce." And before you pencil it into 2012's social calendar, between "gamification" and "virtual business cards," I urge you to save your ink. It's here! While the direction that this marketing tool will take is still a bit foggy, a few things are clear: Social commerce is measurable, it works, and it's here to stay.

But where is it headed?
As GigaOm editor Om Malik recently wrote, "If the first phase of e-commerce was the utilitarian hunt for staples, the next phase of e-commerce is about recreational shopping where the merger of social and interest graphs would drive buying decisions."

He's right. These are very exciting times for social commerce. We're seeing new initiatives take off and find legs, but we're still in the early innings. Harnessing -- and more importantly, activating -- the power of social sharing has been a huge step in the right direction. People have always been eager to share deals and purchase decisions with friends -- even before the social web -- so it's no surprise that those types of conversations tend to spread rapidly online as well. To give one example, Booz & Company recently predicted that sales from social commerce will hit $30 billion worldwide and $14 billion in the US by 2015.

Smart brands should be conducting research as to who are their most profitable customers. Hint: They're not always the ones with the most Facebook friends or Twitter followers. Take a look at how social sharing is driving commerce. Almost all brands have social sharing on their websites to drive traffic and commerce, but very few, if any, know exactly how social sharing is leading to these conversions -- and which customers or visitors are driving the most conversions. Now is the time to find out!

Sharing is social currency
Sharing products and purchases between friends serves as a heavy enabler for making purchases online. According to The New York Times, 90 percent of online shoppers trust recommendations from people they know, and 87 percent spend more dollars online after seeing recommendations. Think about it: If a friend raves about a great deal, you're much more likely to check it out.

And while marketers have been trying to answer the "social media return on investment" question for quite some time, social commerce initiatives have very clear returns. As we all know, it's not only the final transaction that counts, but the conversations that lead someone to that virtual checkout counter that make the difference.

This is great news because people are sharing products online more than ever. According to eMarketer, 73 percent of U.S. companies in 2010 reported that they see social media as a powerful marketing tool for creating a dialogue between them and their customers.

Given its massive global scale, Facebook and Facebook Open Graph ("like" buttons, Facebook widgets, etc.) are where most brands are testing the waters to see what drives transactions. Research shows that almost 100 million Facebook users actively share products or brands with friends on their profile page. And right now, you need to bring Facebook to your online store (where everyone is there to shop) more than bringing your store to Facebook (where not everyone is shopping).

What about deals?
Right now, people rarely intentionally turn to social media to solely to purchase a product or service. Even when they "like" a retailer's brand page, they're not necessarily there to shop -- and with social commerce, much of the commerce can be an impulse decision. It is the brand's responsibility to provide value and gain attention by showing consumers what's in it for themĀ  when they engage with the brand online. Offer fans early access, special deals, coupons, and rewards while aligning those offers with your brand's goals.

In order to really ignite the "sharing spirit," brands are clueing fans in on special deals and offers exclusively via social media. A great example of a sneak peek accompanied with a coupon is from famed fashion house, Oscar de la Renta. The brand recently tapped Facebook for the launch of its first new fragrance in 10 years. Two weeks prior to the launch of the fragrance, the American fashion house gave away free samples of its new scent, Espirit d'Oscar, via a special section of its Facebook page.

It exceeded fan expectations by showing appreciation as a brand. And with more than 120,000 fans on Facebook, the strategy not only gave their fans the inside scoop prior to launch, but ignited instant sharing and word of mouth -- jump-starting sales -- as each fan was excited to share the "first look" with their friends.

Be clear
Remember this motto: the simpler, the better. To increase sharing, outright requests work most effectively. Our recent research, which analyzed Facebook wall posts from more than 200 of our clients, revealed that fans respond best to direct and obvious language. If you want them to post your content or share your deals, just ask.

Additional tips for success:
According to Social Commerce Today, social commerce success requires the following four criteria (also known as theĀ "four Cs"):

  • Commitment: The biggest social media challenge facing retailers is getting the internal commitment and resources from your team. Show them the numbers to get them on board.

  • Consistency: This is true across all social media and retail is no exception -- keep a consistent brand personality.

  • Community: Retailers need to be cognizant and use Facebook the way it was intended to be used: as a two-way communications platform.

  • Collaboration: Turn to consumers for their input and consideration. For example, snack brand Pretzel Crisps taps its fans for new and cool recipes to get them excited about the product.

Social commerce is quickly evolving. This is a very exciting time to put your brand out there and actively engage in the space. Case studies are being written as we go, and the brands that are taking the plunge are carving the path.

Jeff Ragovin is the chief revenue officer at Buddy Media.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Jeff Ragovin has over a decade of experience building expansive brand relationships at major technology and marketing firms. He comes to Salesforce.com through the August 2012 acquisition of Buddy Media, where he served as co-founder and chief...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Patrick Hollander

2011, September 14

@Nick "You need to bring Facebook to your online store more than bringing your store to Facebook" Why would you not have your store on Facebook?

Commenter: Brian Trevaskiss

2011, August 10

It's a great article and one that re-affirms my thinking. I also think retailers have to go a step further and actively reward people for sharing and sending potential shopper to their sites.

Commenter: Jeff Ragovin

2011, August 09

Nick, exactly the point! Retailers need to focus harnessing the power of the social graph.. Bringing people to their sites and then having their customers share experiences and purchases.

Commenter: Nick Stamoulis

2011, August 09

"You need to bring Facebook to your online store more than bringing your store to Facebook"

Excellent point! Too often I see websites that are trying to turn visitors into Friends and Fans. Shouldn't you be concentrating on turning those visitors into customers? Social media sites are just one more place to engage with your target audience, but they aren't the final destination.