Social Pushes the Boundaries of Commerce

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Social media and commerce vendors are converging to create a social commerce sector that is altering the e-commerce landscape.

Amazon, for one, continues to remake the way companies promote and consumers buy their products.

With the launch of Amazon Pages, companies can create their own branded landing pages, complete with featured products, merchandising widgets, and the ability to link to product catalogs. To socialize the offering, Amazon introduced Amazon Posts, allowing brands to cross-promote content messaging on their Amazon and Facebook pages simultaneously. Amazon Analytics leverages metrics such as purchase lift, views, and reach to connect pages and posts to marketing outcomes.

Pinterest has launched Pinterest for Business, enabling businesses to have their own accounts. Pinterest also created a dedicated site for businesses, with best practices, case studies, and documentation. Early adopters include Etsy, AllRecipes, and Organized Interiors.

In mid-December, Facebook rolled out Facebook Gifts, which enables Facebook users to instantly send real gifts to their friends through Facebook.

With so much activity in social commerce, Gartner predicts that 5 percent of all consumer packaged goods sales will take place over social media–enabled commerce environments by 2017.

"Purchasing has always been a very social activity," says Richard Fouts, a Gartner research vice president.

What is developing, Fouts says, is integrating social with commerce online. "Social, advocacy, and commerce are…coming together," he says. "Amazon's done it, but [when I purchase] I'm looking at people who aren't necessarily my friends." This is where Facebook is able to personalize the buying experience.

According to Corey Christiansen, a social media strategist at global marketing agency Metia, Amazon has a leg up on Facebook because pre-existing distribution centers and customer service initiatives already support its e-commerce endeavors. Though Christiansen says Facebook's plunge into commerce is "interesting," he notes that the social platform might only teeter on success in the end because its core services are managed data and monetization of content.

In the B2C home shopping market, QVC acquired Facebook Marketplace application Oodle. Using Oodle, consumers can buy, sell, and share products online through a social buying experience.

E-commerce platform providers are integrating social as well. Demandware integrated with Pinterest to give retail customers access to "Pin-It" buttons on e-commerce pages. Enterprise software company Infor developed a strategic alliance with 8thBridge, a company that helps brands create social shopping experiences within the Facebook newsfeed and on their e-commerce sites.

Successful companies will need to tie social data in real time to retargeting and sales efforts and to personalize the shopping experience through instant recommendations, says George Wright, senior vice president and general manager of Infor CRM. By linking Infor Epiphany CRM and 8thBridge Graphite technologies, Infor developed Social Commerce Advisor and Insight for Social Commerce.

Such technologies will enable marketers to fine-tune their listening capabilities, and to turn insights into the ultimate goal—sales. "[Advocacy] is about bringing people on the phone or online to talk about the product, which boosts sales," Fouts maintains. "The advocacy of someone else is huge, and when you tie that in to commerce, the results can just be fantastic."

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