Social… Commerce?

First came eCommerce. Soon after, mobile commerce descended from the skies above - or rather, the screens below…

Now, a new type of commerce has taken flight, seeking to dethrone all lesser commerces that stand in its way.

And they shall call it, social commerce.

If you’ll allow me to be frank, I find the notion a little bit ridiculous. The only difference between the aforementioned ‘lesser’ commerces, and social commerce, is that the social commerce process is handled entirely within the social media platform that is hosting the service.

The term social commerce Pretty much means, “I’ve got an eShop on Facebook”.

And on the surface, I will admit, it - mostly - makes sense, but I find that in reality the term is completely redundant. For example, let’s say that a seller has an eShop. That seller then decides to put his eShop up on Facebook, paving way for the grandeur of social commerce.

That seller still has an eShop running externally of Facebook. All they’ve done is create a new customer touch point. On Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Dismissive of the strategy itself, however, it just feels like the term social commerce has been created specifically to aid in this novelty commerce type, which at the end of the day is still very much eCommerce. Call it a marketing strategy for the masses, if you will.

Before moving on, let’s not forget about aggregate commerce, and gift card commerce, and oh, hand-to-hand commerce… You see what I mean? Making such a big deal over this event, the next big thing, the one, the only… it serves no purpose whatsoever.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the practice itself and take a closer look at a few advantages as well as some pitfalls of… *sigh* …Social Commerce.

One of the key issues with typical eCommerce setups is the time between interest & sale. The attention span of many, many consumers does not last throughout the whole conversion funnel (which is also a silly metaphor, check article). This is why removing the middle-man and allowing customers to complete their purchases directly on social media platforms makes sense.

This direct contact between the sellers and consumers not only allows for a more convenient point of sale, but has the added benefit of relating to consumers on a personal level, through social feeds or network bubbles. This pseudo-organic relationship plays a very significant role on the consumer’s psyche.

As I’m sure you’re all very well aware, reviews mean everything in the e-commerce space, and what better testimonial than like-minded users who are much more likely to offer an unbiased opinion on the product or service you’re looking to purchase.

Going back to the relatability and trust between seller and consumer, building and maintaining your brand image on a social space or social network is one of the best ways to garner your customers trust and loyalty. The personal touch in the overall feeling of sharing that experience or journey with your customers Goes a very long way as you’re putting money where your mouth is and showing your customers that you are there for them, if they ever need assistance or have any questions.

Last but not least, the fact that you have access to mobile shoppers on a global scale, and in whatever languages they may be using said social platforms, Not only drastically expands your customer base but also gives you the appeal of worldwide reach.

Considering that over 75% of social media users access those platforms through their smart phones or tablets, it becomes way easier to guide them down your conversion funnel when the problem of interest period, to sale, is for the most part solved.

It’s not all butterflies and rainbows for social commerce however, as some of the points I mentioned could likely backfire. Let’s take a look.

The first thing I want to mention the fact that social commerce is primarily shopper’s market. What I mean by this, is that this entire ecosystem was created around the shopper Experience. Businesses and independent sellers could be impacted negatively, Through the loss of web traffic since their store and products are fully hosted on the social platform as well as click through rate (or CTR) which could negatively impact advertising efforts elsewhere.

And let’s not forget about how time consuming the process of building your brand and maintaining your public image can be, especially on a social network, where everything hits 10 times as hard. Creating your eShop on the social platform is simply not enough, part of the appeal and utility of social commerce is intrinsically rooted in that personal touch. Failing to maintain that connection would not only be detrimental but could very well tarnish your brand’s image - and that’s not something you can get back so easily.

And speaking of tarnishing your brand, there is no safer bet than a negative review or negative feedback, especially on the social network. I mentioned how some positive aspects could likely backfire - and this is the most important one to be aware of.

As great as positive testimonials and positive reviews on your social eShop are, it only takes one bad apple to ruin the whole bunch. This plays in parallel with the time commitment necessary to foresee and prevent issues like this affecting your overall brand image and, in result, sales.

Overall, I find that the social commerce pitfalls fall into two categories.

Time and visibility.

On top of the enormous time commitment required to be fully successful in your social commerce endeavors, you should also keep in mind that if you’re going to host an eShop on a social platform, you’ll have to shell out a fair amount of money for advertising.

If you’ve stopped reading and are asking yourself “why would I need to advertise on a social network with so many users and potential customers” that I’m afraid that social commerce may not be for you!

Social platforms host various eShops, and do so without a fee, per se. That fee, my friends, will be paid in kind in the advertising costs required to sustain your business on the social platform. There may be millions of people perusing but the harsh truth is that organic reach is simply unsustainable for an online business.

And always remember.

Facebook gon’ get paid one way or the other.

Social… Commerce?

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