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Four trends defining the nascent social commerce space

Social commerce is no Amazon-killer. It is also not just about simple click-to-buy. In these evolving times of social media, social commerce is more about product inspiration, curation, recommendation and discovery. Retailers are making most of the innovative social platforms to drive sales and thus social commerce is touted as the next big thing in e-commerce.
Social commerce, due to its amplification proposition, clearly reflects the fundamental rule of e-commerce, – of being effortless and seamless. Even casual shoppers end up on a retailer’s site because of a social recommendation. However, the intent to buy is fragile and can quickly evaporate, if the retailers cannot hold the consumers’ interest. Currently, social commerce strategies involve too many intermediate steps before a user ends up in front of the crucial ‘buy’ button.
Retailers are realising the value in investments in social commerce, with the impact going much beyond ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’. Conversion of these impressions into real dollars is fast increasing as social media emerges to be medium of choice for brand engagement. A study titled ‘Social Commerce IQ 2013′ released by 8thBridge puts forward four developing trends in social commerce.
#1: Pinning gains more ‘likes’: With the rise of visual web, platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram are gaining more traction among users. These platforms are becoming more like repositories for shopping ideas, fashion tips, and even wish lists. In a recent survey byZmags (a mobile catalog company), 35 per cent users said they plan to use Pinterest to make purchases. 8thBridge report findings also echoes that the ‘Pin It’ option overtook Facebook ‘like’ and Tweet option in 2013. 62 per cent retailers have the Pin It option in contrast to 59 per cent using Facebook like. Also, 69 per cent of retailers embraced Instagram and 38 per cent experimented with Vine. “As aspiration-based categories, beyond books and music, go online, visual web will gain more importance. The key lies in strategic use of the medium by the retailers,” said Ankur Bisen, Vice President, Retail & Consumer Products, Technopak, a prominent retail advisory firm.
#2: Customers expecting more out of Vine: 8thBridge’s findings also put forward a crucial conclusion – users are expecting big time from Vine. As per the report, 3 of the Top 10 most followed Vine accounts have not created any content. By following these brands without seeing any content beforehand, these customers are trying to tell these brands they want to see videos from them. The social platform boasts of a 40-million strong user base. The winning strategies on Vine include promotion of deals, previews, fashion tips and trends, How-to demos, behind-the-scenes videos. The key lies in creation of teaser videos due to the micro video projection. With its inherent emphasis on visual benefits coupled with video, Vine can act as a big influencer for social commerce.
#3: Retailers still need to harness power of social data: As per the study, of the sites that had social shopping functionality, most of them revolved around discovery or curation. These retailers recognise that when social discovery is integrated directly into the buying process it is a better experience for their customers. Rewarding customers with discounts and prizes for rating and/or creating content seeds awareness of social shopping features and gives retailers access to social profile data. However, the move to Social CRM and Big Data applications is still immature, as companies are not collecting significant social profile data. Brands are still not harnessing the power of social data. Only 27 per cent are collecting customer Likes. Retargeted advertising is one big missing link. So far, only Facebook has developed this capability. Adoption of clever merchandising and friendly user interfaces will allow for sticky merchant-to-consumer relationships that can help nudge a consumer toward more frequent purchases over time. “With social shopping, and use of analytics, the shopping experience can be made better manifold. The differentiating factor going forward will be more towards the convenience factor offered by retailers online, and not just based on deals. Social shopping helps achieve that,” said Arun Sirdeshmukh, Founder, Fashionara.com in India.
#4: Social login integration seeing more adoption: Retailers recognise that logging in socially has many benefits; to customers and to retailers themselves. Not only does Social Login make it easy for a customer to login to a retailer’s ecommerce site and make seamless check outs, it also helps the customer see their friends’ purchasing or browsing activity. For the retailer, Social Login helps them see their customers as people; what they Like, who their friends are, where they live, etc. Besides, it also provides retailers with a true identity, minimising fraud. The 8thBridge report predicts that this year, most retail sites will enable social login.

As part of the survey, 8thBridge researched 872 brands beginning in July and ending in November 2013. The brands researched were determined by the Internet Retailer 2013 Top 500 Guide and an additional list of brands Internet Retailer determined were up and coming. The study was spread across 7 major social platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and Vine