Believe it or not, e-commerce, or the act of simply buying goods and services online, is becoming old-hat. It’s a no-brainer that online users are spending more time on social networking sites every year and are frequently using these platforms as sounding boards for purchase decisions. Social sites have created a playground for brands to not just communicate with target consumers, but also facilitate an easier purchase process (have you bought anyone a Starbucks gift card on Facebook yet?) while incentivizing sharing through social deals.
As an avid online shopper, I was over-the-moon excited to attend Business Insider’s Social Commerce Summit last month, where I heard a variety of voices from companies like One Kings Lane, Rue La La, Foursquare, Zappos, TripAdvisor, PayPal, and others discuss their take on where social commerce is going. While it was apparent that no one has truly figured out this new way of selling, it was exciting to see how quickly social commerce is predicted to expand over the next few years.
Two major trends emerged during the conference:
1. Intrusiveness: It’s the Biggest Obstacle Blocking Brands Looking to Become More Social
There’s a fine line between connecting with a target consumer on social networking sites and intruding in his or her ongoing discussion with family and friends. After all, when you’re scrolling through pictures of what your friends did last night (and who can forget the baby photos?), do you really want to be bombarded by Company XYZ trying to sell you a new pair of shoes? The logical answer is that companies need to smarten up with their approach and start balancing a need for sales with a need for long-term relationship marketing.
One King’s Lane has transformed from a flash sales destination to a visually appealing online universe that uses storytelling to connect with customers. Instead of looking at a screen full of tables and chairs, consumers are pulled into design stories like “Alfresco Dining” or “The Glamorous Bath.” Through these stories, consumers buy into a feeling rather than a singular product, and it’s a feeling that feels less intrusive when it appears in Facebook news feeds.
2. Social Commerce and Mobile are Inextricably Linked and will Continue to Meld Together Rapidly
This shouldn’t come as a surprise; more than half of all Facebook users regularly access the site from their phone and society has, in general, become more comfortable with making purchases from smartphones and tablets. Mobile purchasing places opportunity firmly in the hands of online retailers, who are seeing higher sales as customers “showroom,” the practice of testing a product in a store and then scanning mobile sites for a better price before purchasing.
While many retailers are seeing success with apps, this success is limited to loyal and repeat customers only. If social retailers expect to expand their base, investing in a solid mobile web experience is crucial to acquiring new customers and potential brand advocates in the future. Limiting barriers to purchase from mobile devices will ultimately lend itself to success for social retailers in the long-run.
It’s up to brands and agencies to crack the code. How can we connect consumers socially with their favorite products in a mutual beneficial way? For now, it looks like trial and error is the only option.