S-commerce, it’s better together

2010 saw the rise of social buying models and plugins to change the retail landscape.  Will 2011 be the year of S-Commerce?

We have always been influenced by our friends and networks when we buy new products, now social platforms are offering retailers a golden opportunity to bring the group shopping experience into every online purchase.

Whilst I sit at my computer browsing the latest collections on my favourite shopping websites I reminded, that whilst I am sitting here alone, my friends and their valuable opinions are just a click away.

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The last decade of web enabled living has empowered consumers be more informed, better advised and to achieve better pricing.  The value of the e-commerce channel has seen exponential growth with £250bn spent by UK consumers between 2000 and 2010.  In 2010 alone an estimated £56bn was spent online.  46% of UK consumers claim to shop online at least once per week.  Much of this was driven by items under £100.  For higher ticket purchases the internet has played a valuable role in driving offline purchase.  Over 2010 we have seen a new and very powerful trend emerge around Social-Commerce.  Where smart and brave retailers have capitalised on the moment in time where a consumer most wants to learn from the experience of the people they trust; their friends and people they consider to-have authority.  This, has been achieved by connecting where we buy and buying where we connect. i.e. taking commerce to social platforms like Facebook and taking Facebook technology onto retailer sites.

Social-commerce is born out of innate human behaviour

S-commerce is about making your business more sharable, connected, rewarding and personal.  Allowing the consumer to see your product in their world and to be rewarded for buying from you will bring greater referrals, advocacy and ultimately increased sales.  S-commerce thinking can drive both direct and indirect sales.  Directly through short-term incentive sites and platforms or through reward for fans or followers and indirectly through connecting the shopping experience to an individuals social network to encourage recommendation.  S-commerce allows business to benefit from innate human behaviours.  We all have mental rules of thumb that help us make purchase decisions and social technology is designed to capaitalise on this:

  • Other people are doing it: we are reassured by other peoples actions, if they are buying then maybe we should too. E.g. Amazon, Facebook Likes
  • Scarcity: Short term deals, group buying, deal networks and feeds keep us informed with the latest offers. E.g. Groupon, Voucher Cloud
  • Authority: Referrals, recommendations by believable experts, and community tested products
  • Relevance: If is a product is positioned as relevant to my lifestyle we are more likely to purchase.  If we can shop together with ‘someone’ like me we are also more likely to purchase.
  • Reciprocity: If we can perform an action and gain benefit for both ourselves and a friend it plays to our need to be fair.
  • Liking: We are more likely to like something if someone else we like agrees.  Giving us tools that full this need drives purchase.  E.g. Follow, Like, Share buttons on websites allow us to both demonstrate what we like to our community and to ask for their feedback.

The new model for driving impulse e-purchase

Deal sites around the world gained significant traction over 2010, including; Groupon, Living Social, Woot, KGB, Foursquare rewards and most recently Facebook deals.  In the US 44 million visited a deal site in November 2010.  2.5 million UK users visited Groupon in just one month alone, with a further 4.5 subscribing to their email database.  The majority of the deals available have been around low cost items, treatments or experiences across both well-known and independent brands.  The Groupon model relies on communities getting together to purchase, the offer is only released when enough members pledge to buy.  The Groupons drive both revenue and footfall since many of the deals require instore activation.  The Facebook model rewards locality and loyalty through incentivised ‘checkins’.  It is easy to imagine why low cost products like coffee, tickets for experiences like Thorpe Park and double value vouchers for GAP and Amazon work on these platforms.  However, make no mistake these platforms are also powerful enough to sell high cost products like cars.  Mazda were a UK launch partner for Facebook Deals and in China 1 Mercedes was sold per minute on the group buy site Taobao. The connected digital and real world mechanism can take advantage of the ROPO (research online purchase offline) behaviour that is now well established into our shopping behaviours.

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Social commerce is undoubtedly changing the face of retail, arguably for the better.  It is becoming more consumer centric, more personalised and better connected giving retailers a new approach to CRM that drives sales and advocacy.  On the downside for retailers it will further expose brands that don’t live up to their promises or who don’t recognise the importance and power of both community and technology to change their businesss.

Some of these ideas and platforms will just be part of the journey to a more socially orientated retail world and may fall by the wayside or evolve into something new, others and certainly some ‘social actions’ will be here to stay.  A social action is value exchange that consumer is learning to have between a brand and themselves which rewards loyalty and advocacy by giving something back. In 2011 consumers want the best deal and the reward for spreading the word, now surely that has to be worth testing….

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One Response to “S-commerce, it’s better together”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mindshare Social, joanna Lyall. joanna Lyall said: S-commerce, it’s better together: 2010 saw the rise of social buying models and plugins to change the retail lan… http://bit.ly/fm3ZoF […]

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