The concept of “social commerce” can be confusing. Some people think of it as when retailers use social media to promote their products. Still others think of it as “Influencer marketing,” aka getting endorsement from social media stars who share products and services with their followers. But it isn’t necessarily either of these things. Truthfully, at its core, “social commerce” is about turning a brand’s customers into advocates.
By this measure, social commerce is actually embodied by everyday word-of-mouth communications in the form of recommendations shared on social media, direct messages, emails, texts, and so on. Every day, people make literally billions of these casual recommendations to their friends, family and acquaintances across messaging platforms and social networks. These recommendations happen in a space where it’s difficult for retailers to capitalize on because they’re ad hoc and fragmented; plus, they’re authentic, being shared organically from a person’s individual experience, casually in the moment.
So how can brands take advantage of this massive opportunity at scale, while simultaneously avoiding disrupting the authentic nature of these interactions?
Four considerations come into play when a brand is considering how to launch a scalable, authentic social commerce program that drives loyalty for their brand and truly creates brand advocates.
- Making a recommendation must be natural. Some rewards/recommendations platforms require the recommender to take extra steps outside of a casual, normal everyday conversation via text or social media message. However, technology is emerging that allows a recommendation to naturally be embedded in an existing communications flow, without making a recommender modify their behavior.
- The program must be omnichannel. Since today’s communications happen anywhere and everywhere a customer might be — across platforms (mobile, desktop, app) and channels (social media, text messages, emails) — the program must be able to meet the recommenders where they already are. A single-channel platform might “violate” the first requirement above in that it might require the user to modify their behavior midstream and move from one device to another, for example.
- Being unobtrusive is key. Similar to the above recommendation of a program’s mechanics fitting naturally into existing user behavior, a successful program must exist in the background. This factor allows existing recommender behavior to retain its critical authentic nature without the potentially negative connotation of directly being part of a brand’s promotional efforts.
- Rewarding the recommender is a must. If a purchase results from a recommendation a customer makes to their social media followers or from a text they send to a friend, the recommender should be able to get rewarded for the value of that recommendation. Therefore, it’s essential for programs to accurately track and attribute any sales that were made in this fashion so that recommenders see rewards as a direct result of their individual influence. This final consideration creates a virtuous circle because these brand advocates will continue to make recommendations for the products they love, increasing brand loyalty for themselves and among new customers.
Capitalizing on the massive opportunity that exists in the daily word-of-mouth recommendations that happen casually among consumers worldwide no longer has to be elusive for marketers. As long as brands can keep their social commerce program effortless for the customer, omnichannel so it meets customers where they are, unobtrusive, and rewarding for the recommender, they can realize success from this once untouchable opportunity. To successfully build a social commerce-driven program that results in incremental sales, brands need to seek out the emerging technologies that can help them drive those sales while still meeting the four criteria above and, simultaneously, creating new brand advocates.
Jordan Glazier is the CEO of Wildfire Systems, a white-label loyalty, rewards and cashback platform.
Jordan Glazier is an explorer at heart and loves building new businesses. Prior to Wildfire, Jordan was CEO of Eventful, acquired by CBS. Before Eventful, Jordan was COO of Client Shop, acquired by Internet Brands. He began his e-commerce career as a senior executive at eBay where he built and managed three of eBay’s largest business units.