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.