Is Social the Future of e-Commerce?


Luke Brynley-Jones is the founder of Our Social Times, who run social media conferences in the UK, Europe and the USA. They’re hosting Social Media Marketing & Monitoring 2011 in London on Monday, 19th September.

Social Commerce

Social commerce has emerged as one of the most innovative strands of social media marketing during 2011, yet there remains some confusion about what it really is, whether it works and, crucially, whether we really want it at all.

While Groupon has often hogged the limelight in the social shopping arena, most experts agree that, while it’s certainly leveraged the power of social media to provide group deals, it’s not truly social. Social commerce is really about transactions that are done on or through a social network, rather than because of it.

So does social commerce work? Well, there have been three significant social commerce reports in the past year (one of which Robin reviewed) and many companies are genuinely seeing positive results from integrating social media: OpenTable reported a 25% increase in bookings and 200% rise in registrations when they added a “Like” button to their site and, since adding an option to post reviews, Argos have racked up over 900,000 reviews, which give customers increased confidence when they buy online.

Yet social commerce doesn’t sit so well with the public. One of the reports found that that 72% of us already feel like Big Brother is watching us when we get personalised recommendations on Facebook and other sites, and 56% of us say we feel “violated”. Another indicated that 89% of us haven’t bought anything on Facebook and that 44% of us aren’t interested in doing so. These are pretty damning figures for, supposedly, one of the hottest new industry trends.

Perhaps the answer to this gap between the experiences of companies and shoppers is simply better integration and personalisation? As I write there are gangs of heavily-funded start-ups cleverly tinkering with the APIs of the leading social networks to enable brands to provide seamless, personalised shopping experiences both on Facebook and on their own websites.

Alchemy Social, for example, is working closely with Facebook to enable brands to pull data into their websites to offer a personalised experience away from the clutter of Facebook itself. Another company, 8thbridge, offers in-stream shopping in Facebooks News stream. This kind of integration may genuinely herald a new era in personalised shopping. The alternative view is that it might just creep us out completely. Needless to say, the jury’s still out on this one.

If you’d like to hear more about this, I’m hosing a discussion called “Is Social Commerce the Future of e-Commerce?” with We Are Social’s Robin Grant, plus guests from Expedia, BrandAlley and Havas Media, at Social Media Marketing & Monitoring 2011 in London on 19th Sept.

Luke has kindly offered We Are Social readers a 10% discount on the Social Media Marketing & Monitoring 2011 ticket price, by entering the discount code “WAS10” when buying a ticket directly from their website.