Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Forrester Research Says Social Media Has No Effect on Ecommerce. Really?

On Mashable earlier this week, an article highlights a recent report conducted by Forrester Research and GSI Commerce. The conclusion is that based on data collected 6 months ago, social media has little to no effect on commerce. What?!? You mean that we have been wasting our time, budget and energy creating fictional monetizing methodologies centered on what the world has defined as social commerce?

First of all, it’s completely illogical. Considering the speed in which social media, mobile media and even internet technologies are evolving, is it really reasonable to make such pointed assumptions and claims based on data collected 6 months ago?

I’m not buying that social media has no effect on commerce sales and here are 5 reasons why:

We are programmed to share. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and StumbleUpon provide plug-in tools for all sites (commerce included) to provide visitors with the ability to share what they are buying or considering buying (in some cases wish they could afford). The reach and visibility of their products reached new limits without additional marketing efforts. Now add custom shares like Facebook’s new Send button allow me (and you) to personalize our preferences even more by selecting the individual people within our network that may be interested in what we want to share with them. So while my father would not care to see that I really like the Michael Shannon pumps at DSW, my mom certainly would.

We can get unbelievable discounts if we buy as an ‘online team.’ Another social media commerce site, Groupon, made group buying a common term. In fact, merchants are now on a long waiting list just to post an offer on the site. No money in social media huh?

Social media has its own currency. You cannot argue the fact that if something has its own currency, that is pretty powerful. The Facebook credits system was introduced in 2009 and was originally aimed at the gaming community. Since the recent announcement of Facebook Deals, consumers can now redeem these credits for tangible items.

They have their own shopping mall. The social network has its own shopping mall. How can you say that ecommerce sales are not effected by the ability to place your items in a mall environment visited by millions of shoppers daily?

We live for reviews from our peers. Well maybe we don’t ‘live’ for them, but consider your purchase behavior online. How many times have you tried something or decided to find out more about something because someone within your network either bought it or gave it a nice review.

What the social sites do lack is their ability to deliver an artfully merchandised shopping experience that integrates meaningful content with the ability to transact.

Sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn just aren’t designed for commerce and that’s because they were designed for online communication. For community building. But now retailers have recognized the power the interaction has on the transaction and this is where social media is going to play a huge role.

Retailers and consumer brands have spent a lot of time and money curating a social media community that’s highly engaged and has an emotional connection with their brand. In many cases, they are providing these groups with exclusive content and treating them as lead users. It’s illogical that companies would not want to turn these communities into revenue streams. And that is exactly where they are struggling. How to turn these organic communities into revenue streams without annoying them.

The capabilities and options to retailers and ecommerce merchants who see an opportunity to combine a great branded experience with the ability to purchase within social networks will improve. Technologies will evolve to assist these brands with online merchandising tactics that endorse the experience they are attempting to deliver to their networks and communities. The market is open because the demand is there. Consumer’s trust with online commerce (both on ecommerce sites and on mobile sites & apps) is only getting higher. Seemingly, consumers seem to demand more personal experiences and this is where social media & content engagement will play a complimentary role to one another.

If you don’t want access to a $600 million dollar online economy and don’t feel the need to give 500 million Facebook users even the ability to purchase from you via social media, then don’t. But I would hesitate to stamp a claim on the fact that social media is going to have zero impact on commerce revenues based on 1) data collected 6 months ago and 2) the rapid pace in which social networks are endorsing commerce on their site.

What do you think? Do you believe social media will have no effect on ecommerce? Why or why not?


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