Social media retail strategies (also known as Social Commerce) are on their way to take over all other forms of retail marketing. At least that is one of the beliefs going around these days. So given this impending evolution, how does one formulate and execute smart and integrated digital experiences that will more effectively respond to customers’ needs in this new paradigm?
On the one hand consumers want to interact with other consumers and form a subjective/benefits opinion of the products or services they are considering and on the other hand they want to be able to evaluate these same products and services from an objective/features perspective. And they sometimes, oddly enough, also want to fully immerse themselves in the brand. Could all these seemingly disjointed activities be happening in one single place? As opposed to navigating between multiple influencer websites and then going back to the eCommerce platform to gather more info from the seller and to perform payment transactions. Shouldn’t all this happen on one convenient easy-to-use platform? The answer seems to be yes. Actually a few organizations out there (see links below) are already making this a reality to a great extent.
So where would this platform ideally reside? Would it be smart for conventional eCommerce platforms to integrate increasingly complex social interaction systems that seem to be evolving at the speed of light? Or would it be better for eCommerce platforms to transform into integrated plug-ins that become an appendage to the social media platforms — where one would assume their customers spend most of their online time — therefore giving them the option to shop without ever leaving their favorite digital hangout. That is the approach a few retailers have already dipped their toes in.
On the flip side, developing an eCom paltform-centric approach that somehow integrates social media as an add-on to the platform (sort of the reverse approach to the former) would presumably present the advantage of an easier single-view setup to manage other customer experience activities, such as loyalty programs and customer service activities within the platform while integrating social data to the mix after the fact. What if for instance a retailer wanted to create an automated loyalty feature that rewarded customers on a complex scale relative to their purchase frequency in conjunction with their online community brand advocacy or product reviews activity across multiple social media platforms. It would then perhaps make sense for the eCom platform to prime as a social aggregator.
What seems to be the case is that this will not be a straightforward cookie-cutter answer for all businesses. And some are already using a multiplicity of approaches. There are plenty of players out there trying to figure out different models. The social media centric solution might work best for one type of retailer while the eCom platform centric solution might work best for another. What is pretty much a certainty is that social media is very quickly becoming an unavoidable part of the marketing and customer relationship building effort regardless of the approach.
At any rate, these are exciting times for both consumers and marketers, as the former get better equipped to make better buying decisions and the latter get a much more detailed view of their customers.
For a quick overview of what’s being thought up, designed and developed out there: