What’s the Future of Social Commerce?


Remember “F-commerce?” Widely hyped a few years ago, Facebook commerce came into being when Facebook launched Facebook Stores — which died a quick death when ecommerce businesses found no one was buying.

Recently, however, both Facebook and Twitter have made moves to revive social commerce (allowing people to buy things directly on social networks without leaving the site). In June, Twitter began testing a “Buy Now” button (on mobile only) and bought payment infrastructure company CardSpring to bring “in-the-moment commerce experiences to [its] users,” Mashable reports. In July, Facebook began testing a “Buy” button on select ads. Meanwhile, Pinterest and Shopify have teamed up to automatically enable Rich Pins for Shopify merchants’ Pinterest boards. Rich Pins make it easier for Pinterest users to get more information about products, including where to buy them.

What do these trends mean to your ecommerce business? While I don’t think you need to panic or start planning your social commerce strategy just yet, I do think it’s worth watching what the major social media players are doing. As you consider what social commerce could mean for your ecommerce business, here are some questions to ask:

  • What social platforms do your customers and target market use most?
    As always, when it comes to social media, your focus should be on keeping up with developments on the platforms where your customers and prospects spend time.
  • Where do your customers come from?
    Use website analytics to track how many customers come to your ecommerce site from your various social platforms. Is social media a strong driver of sales for you? If so, social commerce is likely something you’ll want to keep a close eye on, as converting browsers to buyers directly on social sites could be your next step.
  • How do your customers like to buy from you?
    Use website analytics to track how most of your customers buy. Are they buying on desktops/laptops, on tablets or on smartphones? Social “Buy” buttons are likely to be most useful to shoppers on mobile devices — particularly smartphones, where browsing Internet retailer websites is still a less-than-ideal experience. (No wonder Twitter is focusing its experiments on mobile — as well as social — commerce.) If your customers don’t typically buy via mobile, you probably don’t need to be on the cutting edge of social commerce.
  • Who are your target customers?
    Clearly, you’ll need to be most watchful of social commerce if your customers are heavy mobile users and/or early adopters. Moms, Millennials and men tend to fall into these categories. Social shopping might appeal to those who don’t have a lot of time (moms), like to get input from friends before making choices (Millennials) and prefer to buy fast (men).
  • What do you sell?
    Social shopping is most likely to take off with smaller, impulse purchases — at least at first. People probably aren’t going to buy a 55-inch TV on their smartphone based on a Facebook ad — but they might buy an iPhone accessory, scarf or lipstick that way.

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