Online Landscape Evolves With S-Commerce

F-commerce is rapidly giving way to social commerce in general as brands look to maximize the Web's potential.

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The Smashbox’s “Social Shop.”

Photo By Courtesy Photo

For example, Smashbox has a “social shop” section on its Web site where users can, in a sense, shop with friends. The cosmetics site allows consumers to connect through Facebook and post in this social portion. Users can also shop items by “recently liked,” “most liked” and “my friends like.” It goes a step further with a functionality that lists friends’ birthdays that are coming up — including “likes” and wants that pertain to the brand to give suggestions for gifts.

Levi’s has a “friends store” on its site as well that allows users to see what their friends have purchased from the brand. There is the option of seeing what “everyone” likes — or just friends, as well as a feed of recently “liked” product and, similar to Smashbox, the option of seeing upcoming birthdays (if one chooses to log in via Facebook from the store).

Mullen acknowledges that the above brands have done a good job incorporating social elements into their sites — and although the technology has a long way to go, Smashbox and Levi’s are thinking about it “in the right way.”

Like Gardner, she divides the evolution of social commerce into “innings.” The first inning being the “like” button and the second the advent of “Facebook Connect” technology, which she labels “really powerful” due to the fact that 50 percent of e-commerce shoppers are logged into the medium simultaneously while they are on an e-commerce site. With one click, companies can access all the data on a user’s profile, and it lowers the barriers of entry to logging onto the site. The third inning, which is still a long way away, will force brands to figure out how to actually monetize on Facebook itself.

“Typically you would have to enter all of your information to register yourself as a user, [but now] Facebook will automatically populate all of that for you. This gives e-commerce marketers significantly more information on the consumer than they’ve ever historically had,” Mullen said.

Second to the “Connect” technology, Mullen believes linking back to product on a brand’s e-commerce site through strong Facebook programming is crucial to partaking in s-commerce’s second inning. She pointed out that Burberry generates 29.1 percent of its Web site traffic from Facebook, where it currently has over 10 million fans — at a fraction of the cost of paying for ad words on Google or Bing. She added that sees upward of 20 percent of traffic to its site coming from Facebook. In the short term, it’s brands that are able to successfully drive people from Facebook to corresponding e-commerce sites that will see the greatest returns.

Going forward, Mullen believes the most important thing for brands to start thinking about is how they attribute growth on the social platforms to sales and e-commerce, while beginning to think about how they can track sales offline through social commerce. She takes a step back and returns to the concept of the “first inning,” where it was about growing one’s fan page and seeing how long it took to reach 1 million fans. But with attribution, brands need to start using data to understand what impact fans are having on business and what behavior is taking place across a brand’s own digital platforms.

“The early iterations of these stores were basically just taking exactly what retailers did on another channel and replicating it on Facebook, and if you think about the development of any other robust content commerce channel, it’s not about replicating. It’s transformation in terms of what are the consumer behaviors specific to that channel, and how you tap into them,” Mullen said.

Nordstrom is aiming to do just that — and amid reports that it ceased selling on its Facebook store last week, the brand is quick to say that it’s still in the early stages as it relates to s-commerce.

“We recognize we have to be open to trying new things in order to make things more seamless and simpler to buy from us through Facebook and other social media channels. We’re absolutely not walking away from Facebook commerce and are actively pursuing other initiatives to help us be more responsive and relevant to our customers,” a spokesman for the retailer told WWD. “Social media is very fluid and we’ve been focused for a long time on trying to be where our customer wants to be when it comes to social commerce. We’re continuing to look at Facebook and other social media channels to make it easy and convenient for customers to buy from us through these channels.”

Nordstrom calls its commerce stint on the medium a “test” that “hardly represented its Facebook storefront” and one of many tests it has implemented to help the company learn about its fan base. The retailer is actively engaged with Pinterest and sees the social discovery site as an effective tool in featuring new product. Additionally, during New York Fashion Week earlier this month, Nordstrom live-streamed Jason Wu’s runway show and gave consumers the ability to preorder pieces from the fall 2011 collection directly from the retailer.

While its customer might not have responded as well as planned to the Facebook store it recently closed, Nordstrom is by no means done devising ways for consumers to transact on the medium. It is looking at “broader capabilities” on the platform and intends to build its digital infrastructure in a way that best responds to this s-commerce channel as it continues to grow.


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