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Social Ecommerce – A Practical Guide

Shopping has always been a social experience, for some people it’s entertainment and there’s nothing better than a night out shopping with the girls. Unfortunately, there’s less and less time for shopping as a pastime for the employed. As a consequence, ecommerce is now main-stream with year over year double digit growth rates. A retailer that isn’t online today is most likely in trouble.

Ecommerce has been growing for over a decade and you can buy almost anything online. Even the divas are shopping online, witness the number of fashion and handbag sites. My favorite ecommerce success story is Net-a-porter. ‘While high street rivals were battered by recession, Net-a-Porter increased its pre-tax profits from £3m to £10.1m during the period.’ And then there’s the ‘lipstick index’ whichusually increses durin economic downturns. In the current recession it has not increased, but online sales have. See the links below if you need more convincing. If you’re a retailer and you’re not convinced to get online, read these articles. Today it takes more than a transactional ecommerce site; a few retailers are experimenting with social ecommerce.

In the simplest terms, Social commerce is buying and selling stuff online with help from friends. If you’re a small retailer you can add a social network with product ratings and reviews, blogs, forums, videos and photos relatively easily and inexpensively. There are a lot of ‘white label’ online services available to choose from. A ‘white label’ service provides a piece of functionality that is easy to make look like your brand. It’s the equivalent of private labeling a product. You can take a number of white label services and put them together to make a social commerce site. A crucial consideration is the ability to make the sites look the same. Same navigation, same colors, same fonts, same graphics. I looked at a lot of white label services and talked to a few web development companies. I came to the conclusion, it would be stupid to pay $100,000 for something I could set up for free and use for under $1000 per year. I picked shopify for ecommerce, ning for social networking and js-kit for ratings and review. These fit my budget and are easy to use. Relatively easy, I have to disclose I do have some techie background. All these services have tiered pricing. You can set up your site and learn how to use it for free. Once ready to launch, upgrade to the paid service per your needs. All services are fully hosted and very reasonably priced. Once you have a destination, you need to promote it.

If you’re a marketer or a retailer, you’ve heard this disturbing buzz about ‘new marketing’. Disturbing because it’s not controlled and few really know how to make it work. There’s been a structured formula of how to market and sell and now you’re told that doesn’t work anymore. In the back of your mind, you know it’s true, even you don’t like the relentless Viagra and Cialas ads during the super bowl or the 20 minutes of pharmaceutical ads during the half hour morning news. But this ‘new marketing… OMG! Now you have to ‘ask permission’, ‘start a conversation’, ‘build a relationship’ just for the honor of selling a good. And while people are socializing, they don’t want to be advertised to. It sounds daunting but really it’s no different than what you do when someone walks into your store. You try to make them comfortable by greeting them, try to start a conversation to get to know them. It may take time, the best brands build relationships, they know their customers and let them know when there’s an item they might want. Social commerce is the same… it’s just on a larger scale…with a global reach. You’re no longer limited by geography.

The Importance of Social Ecommerce in Modern Business

Many big businesses today know the importance of social ecommerce and are using it to help reach a wider audience through the internet. With the rising popularity of social networks and social media, it is only right that businesses take advantage of these new trends to help establish their businesses online. This marketing method is very effective that almost all big names in practically any business industry have some form of social ecommerce in place and even some small or medium businesses survive through it as their only way of attracting customers.

There are many benefits of using social ecommerce to help grow a business:

Cost-Efficient System

Social ecommerce is very cost-effective and may even be done effectively without any financial obligation because most, if not all popular social networks are free to use. Businesses can instantly create their own business page and start attracting fans, subscribers, or followers instantly. It is like owning a free virtual advertising real estate in a prime location where there are a lot of people.

Reach a Wider Audience

One of the best things about social ecommerce is that almost everyone nowadays has a social network account which means businesses who create their own pages can interact with plenty of prospects even outside the city or outside the country where the business operates. In many ways, social ecommerce plays a huge role in helping a business grow globally. Businesses can make transactions with customers even half a world away easily and conveniently utilizing the social media tools.

Get Targeted Traffic

One of the biggest problems of advertising a business is doing it ineffectively because the audience that sees the advertisement does not care or have no plans of buying the product or the service. Ineffective advertising that leads to untargeted traffic can be very costly and may even lead to losses. With social ecommerce, you can take advantage of several systems that can help you attract only your target audience to make your business more efficient.

When a business creates a social ecommerce page on a popular social network, people can easily find their pages when they are searching for the product or service the business addresses on the social network. The best part is that these pages can also be found in the main search engines which means the page is accessible to thousands of people who really are searching for the product or service the business provides.

Engage With Customers

People love interacting with the brands or companies that provide them the best products or the best service they enjoy. In fact, it is not rare to find big companies that have hundreds of thousands of fans, followers, or subscribers in any of the social networks they are a part of.

Social ecommerce needs to be undertaken not just to sell a product or a service, but also to interact socially hence its name. Many businesses that have been successful utilizing social ecommerce are more interactive with their followers, fans, or subscribers by regularly updating them, asking relevant questions, or even just commenting on their posts. This creates a sense of community within a social ecommerce page thereby making customers feel more comfortable and more loyal in doing business with the company.

The Rise of Social Ecommerce

When I was considering opening a store for my organic cotton business, my mentor and business advisor shook her head signaling she was not in favor of my plan to open an actual brick and mortar store. She then proceeded to explain to me how anyone who would think of such an endeavor was seriously misinformed about the advantages of operating a virtual store in the booming cyberspace of the internet. She also pointed out to me that in the current economy this decision could lead to complete financial ruin and smash my hopes and dreams of owning my own business and becoming an entrepreneur.

With the rise of social commerce the advantages of operating a virtual storefront business has become the preferred method of creating a successful business paradigm. Social media has been able to reach thousands if not millions of potential customers by virtual word of mouth. As every business person learned in Business 101, the best advertising is word of mouth, or in this case, virtual word of mouth; one friend posting a blog or message about a new product or website they enjoy. Linking your business website to other sites that can contribute to the rise of social ecommerce has become a force never before imagined and can be one of the greatest tools your business can access for virtually free advertising.

Your personal online website is the key to creating a successful business utilizing social media as a platform for your product or service. Your ability to reach an exponential number of customers increases with every social ecommerce posting by a virtual army of new, satisfied customers. As you create your website and blogs using all the current social media available, you are tapping into a network of customers worldwide. Never before has creating and running an ecommerce business been accessible to anyone who owns a computer and has some basic understanding of the World Wide Web.

Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have allowed us to connect directly to a customer base instantaneously. These social networking sites let us search for new job opportunities that we never would have considered in the past and have allowed us to promote our businesses by giving us a unique platform to promote our good works through the miracle of the internet.