Retailers are making it easier and easier to purchase everything you could ever need online, and as a result traditional in-store shopping has taken a hit. However, that doesn’t mean that consumers want to completely give up the shopping experience. Many people are still interested in getting recommendations, shopping around for sales, and being part of a buyers’ community – and that’s where social commerce sites come in.
What Social Commerce Sites Are All About
Although they may not have always gone by the name “social commerce,” these types of sites have actually been around for over a decade. EBay, for example, was one of the first true social commerce sites and still operates on a peer-to-peer basis, where web users can directly auction and bid on items from other users. Etsy is another example of a popular site that allows consumers to essentially navigate through a virtual marketplace to purchase products created by other site users.
Of course, these peer-to-peer businesses aren’t the only type of social commerce sites out there. Group buying sites like Groupon and Living Social have been encouraging shoppers both to buy discounted products online and to purchase coupons that are redeemable at local brick-and-mortar locations. Popular visual social media sites like Pinterest, while not directly in retail, encourage users to curate images of items they like and may want to purchase. Many other online retailers are beginning to experiment with adding social aspects to their sites, as well, such as allowing shoppers to vote on the products they should stock or adding a chat or forum feature so shoppers can exchange advice.
What Businesses Social Commerce Can Benefit
Hopefully reading the above description of social commerce sites has given you some idea of just how much businesses can benefit from social commerce sites.
If you’re trying to get people to visit a physical location, like a restaurant or a movie theater, offering a discount through a coupon site like Groupon is a great way to get exposure and bring in customers who might not otherwise have discovered your business.
If you’re in a very visual industry like fashion, home decorating, or catering, aspirational photo sites like Pinterest can help you show off your products and encourage site users to share your images with friends who may also enjoy your products.
And, of course, online recommendations from sites like Yelp and Viewpoints can make or break a small local business. There are all kinds of stats to back that up, too. For example, word of mouth generates more than twice the revenue of paid advertising, and customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate.
As the shopping experience shifts to the online world, every type of retailer can benefit from social commerce sites. The trick is finding the site(s) that best allow retailers to connect with their target customers. Check out the brief look at some popular social commerce sites below in order to get a sense of the different types of platforms available.
Individual Social Networks in This Category
Viewpoints. This site is aimed at consumers who like to comparison shop and get recommendations before making a purchase. Products on the site are currently divided into 5 different categories: Kitchen Appliances, Laundry & Cleaning, Home & Garden, Bath & Beauty, and Health. In order to get a sense of how similar products stack up against one another, users can start a research list and compare items. Viewpoints prides itself on carefully screening reviews and rejects any that are too short, obviously fake, unhelpful, or plagiarized, so having your products reviewed on this site lends you a lot of credibility.
thisnext. Launched in 2006, thisnext has established itself as a leading shopping site that highlights beauty, lifestyle, home, and fashion products. The visually-based site allows users to share product recommendations and display products they like as part of their personal profile. Interacting with users on this site could be a great way for fashion or lifestyle-based businesses to get their products out to trendsetters.
Bazaarvoice is a recommendation site that could just be a business owner’s best friend, because instead of merely being a forum for users to write reviews, it allows retailers to respond to comments or answer questions posed by shoppers. Bazaarvoice boasts more than 400 million unique users who view and share reviews, questions, and experiences on about 20 million different products.
Living Social helps local businesses attract new customers and gets old customers to come back by offering discounts and deals through the Living Social website and app. The site tends to attract younger, affluent, and well-educated consumers who will share good deals with their friends on other social media websites.
ShopIgniter. Billing itself as a “social rich media platform,” this Portland-based startup has made a name for itself by helping high-profile businesses (past clients include Nike, Levi’s, and Target) connect with potential customers on major social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Essentially, their software helps users create, manage, and measure the success of social media campaigns.
Milo. This site gives retailers a great way to make sure that local web users find their products – as long as they’re offered at a good price. Milo allows users to search for a specific product and see what local stores have that product in stock and at what price (so that they don’t have to drive around looking for the best deal). They currently cover products for over 65,000 stores including retail giants like Target, Sears, and Best Buy.
Groupon. A major fan favorite, Groupon allows shoppers to look for discounts and details available from retailers in their region. Some deals can be redeemed online, while others require shoppers to visit a physical location (much like Living Social). It’s a great site for small businesses to offer deals on because it can dramatically increase exposure and convince shoppers to check out retailers they might not have otherwise.