Consumer Know How Blog
22 octobre 2009
Alex Marks, Head of International Business Marketing, eBay Advertising
I was reading an article the other day on a well-respected business news site about the changing nature of the web and I came across the phrase 'social commerce'. Now we've had 'Social Networking' and 'Social Media' which are both part of the 'Social Web' but is 'Social Commerce' taking the concept too far, or does it hold a real opportunity for retailers?
I'm pretty sure the phrase 'Social Commerce' hasn't been trademarked so allow me, if you will, some time to give my own interpretation and what I think are the implications for advertisers.
For us humans pretty much everything has a social implication. We're highly social creatures, and in real life and on the web this is reflected in people forming groups with others of like-minds and discussing things that are important to them. In some circumstances this could well be your product or brand, although I've never been convinced that brands rate as highly in people's lives as marketers like to think.
Since so much of people's social behaviour is now happening online, it's hugely important for marketers to understand the changing nature of where their customers are investing increasing amounts of their times and energy. This is particularly true when other factors, like the current tough economy, are also taken into account. eBay Advertising's research of 1,500 European online shoppers revealed 82% of us are shopping more online in the recession.
Commerce succeeded early online because the internet shortened the supply chain and more importantly, early glitches aside, made it more convenient. And one could argue that, alongside e-mail, transaction was one of the first online behaviours that offered a social and emotional benefit. Before you argue, girls just think how you feel when you buy a new dress and boys, a new car. Please excuse the generalisation for the purpose of making a point.
So as the web has played in increasingly important part in our everyday lives should it be a surprise that the impact is felt amongst the online retailers and how they do business now, and in the future?
No, I don't think it should, but what is social commerce and what of it? For me a large part is going to be about the balance of power. As a result of the socialisation of the web we are seeing growing numbers of communities online. Some are tiny and have modest influence. Others are as big and as complex as cities. As these communities develop and become more self-aware they may decide to impose their will and restrict brands access to them, so brands will have to ask those communities what they might provide in return for the opportunity to sell. To be honest this isn't future-gazing anymore, its already starting to happen.
As consumers we are storing more and more information about ourselves amongst our online communities. So our communities, are by default becoming more responsible for our online privacy, and the decision of what data to share with brands. As tools continue to develop that allow consumers to shape their online experience according to their desires, content providers and retailers will have to adapt to these more personalised demands by allowing their content or brand experience to be dissected and more to order.
And so virtual high streets and markets will continue to evolve within these online communities just like they did in the towns and and villages centuries ago. Just like a concession in Selfridges, it goes to where the people are and not the other way around.
We are already seeing brands helping to facilitate their own communities which are used as a forum for consumer feedback on product, packaging and design. 'Ideastorm' by Dell is a good example of this.
So retailers, listen up. Identify the communities online now that you want to sell to.
Start a conversation. Find out what they need. Start making offers. Put as much effort into your online strategy as you did into your bricks and mortar. Online retail continues to grow at a pace. There's a finite supply of money in the economy. The market will find the balance between high-street and e-street. Otherwise, in the not too distant future you might find yourselves shut out.