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Social E-Commerce and the Customer Network

  |  August 27, 2013   |  Comments

There's been a shift in commerce toward quality over notoriety; and this shift is what makes social marketing a viable strategy, allowing smaller competitors with no marketing department to compete globally.

Last year, consumers and brands alike witnessed the global e-commerce market surpass $1 trillion. In that same year, revenue generated by social networks had reached over $16.9 billion. By 2015, total revenue from social commerce sales is predicted to reach $30 billion. And while the present share of total e-commerce sales is modest, the value of such tactics should not be confined to transactions initiated through social networks alone.

As an industry veteran, I've witnessed firsthand the direct impact of e-commerce innovations and social media technology on business. From sales, marketing, and logistics for global companies, emerging entrepreneurs, and everyday consumers alike; the e-commerce game is certainly changing.

Rather than obstacles in the path of business growth, such innovations serve as a means to broaden brand exposure and expand commercial reach. For instance, targeting products and reaching consumers based on social media connections can humanize the often robotic presence of personalized offerings and retargeted ads. However, excessive intrusion and pushy messaging can alienate the potential buyer or existing customer.

Increasing Notoriety Through Influencers Rather Than Marketers

My mission and that of my team is to approach business challenges with technological solutions. For many e-commerce operations, a major business challenge has centered on reaching digital customers in the right way, at the ideal time, with the perfect product offering.

In a recent Market Force survey, 81 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed declared social networking recommendations were integral to their purchase decisions. With such data in mind, brands should be more open to the social e-commerce realm as a serious business strategy. When it comes to personalization and customization of marketing messages and advertisements, a social media infusion can help humanize the experience for shoppers.

In the age of digital advertising and marketing, social media technology and location-specific data can serve as new tools for reaching increasingly social and mobile consumers. Social tactics can bridge the gap between intuitive retargeting that can sometimes feel unsettling, in favor of socially framed product suggestions with a recognizable face.

A Friendly Face Approach to Digital Marketing

Rather than, "We followed you through the store and thought you'd like this product!" the marketing experience can be more aligned with, "I was speaking with your friend in your neighborhood who loved this product, would you like to take a look?" Although there are definite benefits from such personalization tactics, it is important to avoid appearing insensitive to the customer's privacy. Oftentimes, the best e-commerce web development strategies involve downplaying the amount of customer data you've captured over time.

According to DoubleClick, the "average clickthrough rate of display ads is 0.1%." Once relied-upon digital marketing techniques such as personalized banner ads are set to be replaced by more social and context-centric strategies. Below is a breakdown of a hypothetical scenario where such strategies could work:

  1. Within a brick-and-mortar location a company senses if a customer (with their brand's app on a mobile device) visits a store and leaves without making a purchase.
  2. Later on in the day, due to the in-store opportunity being lost, a brand can try and recapture that lost sale. With offline insights in mind, brands can send a corresponding mobile offer to increase chance of an online sale.
  3. Offers can include localized information regarding the specific store location, hours of operation, as well as incorporate a personalized social message.
  4. The social ad can be personalized by assessing the individual's social network for any brand followers. With social data in hand, the ad or in-app notification can be framed in the context of their unique social network.

Innovative Quality Products = Viral Products

Social e-commerce strategies can benefit large corporations and newcomers alike. Ad spending, marketing budgets, and personnel are often barriers for entry for entrepreneurs introducing a new product. Incorporating social apps within a site such as sharing features, social rewards, a discovery product feed, and purchase sharing buttons can boost product exposure and brand notoriety.

Products can take off virally and reach millions of buyers, fueled entirely by a frugal marketing budget. On Pinterest, for instance, it is possible for a consumer to browse a Pinterest board that features global brands like Nike and Michael Kors, alongside products from regional startups that have just opened up shop, further highlighting a shift in commerce toward quality over notoriety. And ultimately, this shift is what makes social marketing a viable strategy, allowing smaller competitors with no marketing department to compete globally.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.


Himanshu Sareen

Himanshu is responsible for the strategic and overall business development of Icreon. He founded Icreon in 2000 and grew the company through a mix of acquisitions and organic growth. Under Himanshu's leadership, Icreon has grown to become a leading IT consultancy in its space working with some of the world's largest and most influential brands including National Geographic Channel, Fox, PepsiCo, Nokia Siemens Networks, and more.

A strong business-informed technologist, Himanshu has directed Icreon's heady growth through diverse economic climates, dot-com booms and busts, by maintaining a long-term view on relationships, keeping a close eye on the data and business dashboard, and by enabling informed decision-making. Himanshu is a natural entrepreneur. His first encounter with entrepreneurship was a comic rental business at the age of 13. Other ventures he started and exited successfully included an ERP consulting firm, an education-training institute, and a real estate trading business. He has also been as a technology advisor to boards of non-profits and SMBs in New York and globally.

Himanshu is part of the Owners and Presidents Program of Harvard Business School. He received his MBA in international business from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. Aside from his work and family, Himanshu is passionate about keeping up with the latest technology trends, physical fitness, and supporting entrepreneurship and the tech community.

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