Social commerce has shifted into high gear. E-commerce continues to grow at increasingly rapid rates — the sector posted a 10 percent year-over-year sales increase in the first quarter, according to market research firm comScore — and experts predict that online sales could grow to as much as 30 percent of total retail sales over the next few decades.
In part one of this series, I'll provide you with a “playbook” to not only better understand the e-commerce landscape, but to effectively navigate through the opportunities and challenges currently at hand.
* F8 and the Social Graph. Facebook’s vision and its "Open Graph" platform will dramatically impact the social commerce landscape. In addition, the increasingly pervasive "Like" button will play a critical role in the socialization of the web. Here's how:
The third-party “Like” button isn’t simply a one-time connection; it’s an open channel that carries deep implications and new opportunities for both consumers and merchants. The “Like” button will play a critical role in transforming social commerce to open commerce by:
- integrating online and offline shopping experiences across platforms;
- putting people and their recommendations at the center of the web;
- creating a seamless, nondisruptive shopping experience for consumers who want to share information or opinions on brands and products; and
- allowing merchants to gain a deeper understanding of what their customers want, thus helping to create more relevant shopping experiences for consumers.
* Social Search. Considering the recent shifts in consumer behavior regarding product discovery, consumption and sharing, the intersection of search engine optimization and the social web is a vital opportunity for marketers and online retailers to reach more consumers.
Why is the combination of SEO and social networks so powerful? Interactions within social networks create content that improves brand visibility in search results. Furthermore, ensuring that user-generated content (UGC) — e.g., customer ratings and reviews, Q&A — is visible on product pages provides:
- improved relevance and a better shopping experience;
- new ways to reach consumers and encourage them to interact with your brand; and
- valuable opportunities to boost search-related sales.
The intersection between search and social media will undoubtedly evolve as technologies and partnerships continue to emerge. In the meantime, retailers need to keep the following three tips in mind:
- Ensure that your social efforts are transparent and frequent. Encourage sharing/feedback and address customer concerns directly.
- Implement an SEO program to ensure that fresh UGC is visible to leverage the powerful combination of SEO-friendly content that will help guide shoppers and convert them at higher rates.
- Follow search best practices, and ensure content displayed matches crawled content.
Check back in two weeks for the second and final part of this series, when I'll examine what impact social media will have on retail going forward. In particular, I'll identify opportunities to bridge online and offline customer experiences in order to seamlessly bridge multiple touchpoints and channels.
Pehr Luedtke is CEO of PowerReviews, a provider of social commerce solutions, including customer reviews, to retailers and brands.