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Updated: 7 hours 35 min ago

Social Commerce: Shopping Inside of Social

Fri, 2014-08-08 13:12

A Guest Post by Mike Stiles, Senior Content Manager for Oracle Social (pictured left)

We know the value of friends recommending products to friends, but are we seeing these motivated transactions conducted immediately on the social platforms themselves? Is social commerce still a thing?

 What really seems to matter most is whether or not brand participation on social channels is generating incoming traffic to wherever transactions happen to be transacted. In fact, the very definition of sCommerce has quietly morphed over the years from sales conducted on Facebook, to sales resulting from social.

On-Facebook stores are still available, of course. Brands like J.C. Penney, GNC, Levi’s and 1-800-Flowers have done it or are doing it. But the real drive, budget-wise, is to use social to generate traffic and leads as opposed to building social stores. Social budgets are also moving to rounding up leads and sales as opposed to branding. The expectations for pre-sold shoppers to come from social to the brand’s transaction location and make the purchase are high.

And yet…despite a Shopify survey that found Facebook driving almost two-thirds of social visits to Shopify stores and claiming a 129% year over year increase of orders from social, and despite the barely known Polyvore driving the top average order value of $66.75, less than 2% of traffic to retailers’ sites comes from social. And almost half of retailers said less than 1% of social shoppers wound up buying anything. The best social conversion rate is Facebook’s 1.85%.

So what’s broken? Every hoop a buyer has to jump through is a golden opportunity for that buyer to reconsider, change their mind, or put off the purchase. The shortest, most frictionless path from discovery to reassurance to sale should be every brand’s Apollo mission. And since two of those three things are happening primarily on social, sales inside of social, that original definition of sCommerce, might be worth a solid second look.

The social nets are inching forward. Pinterest, the proclaimed king of purchase intent, has rich pins so prices and inventory can be updated real-time. You can reply to tweets with Amazon product links adding #AmazonCart and throw the item into your shopping cart. You can make AMEX purchases by adding a hashtag. But these things amount to better social catalog experiences or buy link usage, not purchase-inside-social opportunities.

Pictures leaked from Fancy in January gave us a peek at Twitter Commerce. Brand tweets can be expanded to show a Buy button, from which you could purchase the item inside the Twitter app. Now we’re talking. OpenSky is trying to get there as well.

The goal is to capitalize on everything social brings in terms of shopping and exposure to products tied to users’ visible interests, capitalize on the trusted recommendations of social connections, use content as your virtual end-aisle displays, use the ongoing social relationships you have with customers and rich social data to keep bumping them toward a purchase, customize their experiences, and find the quickest way to satisfy the buying impulse when it strikes.

Finding something you want to buy in a store and then being told by the clerk you have to go two buildings down to buy it sounds silly. Digital hoops are equally silly.