Social commerce has been around in one form or another for almost as long as social media itself and in some cases longer. Even though most of us don’t really think about it, we use some form of social commerce on a regular basis.
Online market places where consumers discuss purchases with each other are technically S-commerce sites, albeit in a more rudimentary manner than some of the more modern alternatives. Sites with recommendations such as Amazon and Yelp also have a social commerce element and sales driven through social media channels could also be said to be part of the social commerce sphere.
User curated shopping such as Fancy and Lyst are also popular, as are participatory commerce sites such as Kickstarter and Threadless – here the consumer is involved in the production process and funding.
More entwined again are group buying sites such as Groupon. These sites provide users with a reduced cost for an item if enough people agree to purchase it. Though not directly social media based, such sites do rely heavily on social media channels and mobile commerce to inform customers of their offers.
Finally, the most integrated and complete social commerce options we have are sites such as Cohorted. These sites utilise a number of the aforementioned aspects to drive sales and offer the consumer better value.
These group buying sites work on the premise that people like to discuss purchases with friends and that people from the same friendship group tend to often have similar taste. Couple this up with lower costs when purchasing an item as a group and the incidence of social sharing and you have a truly social shopping experience.
The Past Shapes the Present
On a lot of levels it’s only practical and logical to see platforms of this nature come to the fore. If you think about it, super successful sites such as Groupon emerged at a time when a lot of the social media sites were far smaller than they are now.
In addition, mobile commerce was a significantly smaller chunk of the market. In fact, this area of retail has only truly begun to spiral upwards and show what it can do. In the UK around 58% of people own a smart phone, with that figure estimated to rise above 70% by the end of 2013. In addition to this, mobiles account for 31% of site traffic, while mobile commerce has grown by 254% in 2010 – 2011 and over 300% in the 12 months after that.
In addition to this, over 44% of smartphone owners have admitted to ‘showrooming’ according to comScore. This is an action where the person takes an image of a product they wish to purchase and sends it to a family member or friend.
These statistics would suggest that social shopping is not only becoming intertwined but also more mobile orientated and increasingly popular. And as always it’s the early adopters that will reap the rewards.
Of course, social commerce is still in its infancy. However, what better way to get it to grow up quickly than proper integration through a social media site. Though none of the larger networks have understood how to fully do so completely successfully, there is talk around the campfire of further efforts.
The Big Players
According to reports Facebook has been experimenting with the idea – though still with limited success. Pinterest and Twitter have also been rumored to be considering moves too. Nothing succeeds like success and so what better way for the masses to begin to integrate social into their lives than through a platform as large as Facebook or Twitter. Put it this way, nobody used a ‘Like’ ten years ago, or a hashtag five years ago – so, what’s to stop social shopping becoming as central to our existence as Amazon or eBay.
Social shopping may still seem in its youth; however that doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to sprout. It’s quite clear to see that from the history of social commerce and other successful platforms of the past, the rise in social and mobile use and also the innovation of start-ups and interest of big players – it’s odds on to become one of the next big things.
Cormac Reynolds is a writer and a journalist with a range of experience writing in the social field. He has written on a number of the world’s most popular social media sites and also loves tech.
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