Ecommerce combined with online social networking form up an extremely powerful marketing channel. Take the immense audience of online shoppers, add the generally recognized power of recommendation on socials, and try to imagine the reach of the so called ‘social shopping’!
The idea has been agitating businesses for a couple years already. When the phenomenon first appeared, it has been viewed as the future of ecommerce. Social shopping was expected to create a sort of digital experience imitating real-life in-store interactions (with users sharing shopping journeys, giving and getting advice online).
However, the first attempts of popularizing social commerce failed.
Second Life was among the first social shopping projects. Conceived and tailored as a large virtual retail environment for brands to build their presences and visitors to shop from these virtual stores, it nevertheless saw no progress. Another initiative was started by Facebook. The company made several tries to introduce various ‘F-commerce’ options, Facebook Gifts (an option of buying digital gifts and sending them to friends) and Facebook Credits (virtual currency for ecommerce) among them. Each of them remained unsuccessful. Then, it became clear that the approach limited mostly to integrating social sharing buttons into ecommerce websites and allowing virtual currency was not enough.
Yet, social networks remained keen to penetrate into the lucrative field of ecommerce with its overall annual sales topping a trillion dollars, moving further from mere engagement and informing to real conversions and sales.
These days, it seems that social commerce is making a new start.
Facebook is planning to launch a special ‘Buy’ button added to status updates from the brands a user has selected. With this feature, brands and retailers will be able to post updates and at the same time encourage people to make an immediate purchase, rather than send them to the company’s online store. Facebook will be keeping credit card details on file with its servers, so that transactions are as smooth as possible.
Twitter has recently announced two social shopping initiatives. One is the acquisition of CardSpring, in order to launch the so called ‘in the moment’ commerce option. With it, any brand’s/ retailer’s posts previously intended for getting ‘likes’ and retweets are now increasing sales directly. Another initiative is a joint project with Amazon called #AmazonBasket/#AmazonCart (with a variation for specific countries). Using this hashtag, people can add products to their Amazon shopping carts directly from a tweet, and finish the checkout on Amazon website when they like.
Soldsie social commerce service is using a somewhat similar tactic. A brand/retailer posts a picture of a product with pricing info on social networks (Facebook or Instagram), and people who have the intent to buy it simply type the word ‘sold’ in comments. The item automatically adds to their shopping cart.
It would be interesting to see whether this time consumers will adapt the new initiatives and whether the bright prospects of social shopping will finally be realized.
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