Altimeter Group hosted The Rise of Social Commerce event on October 6th and 7th at the Four Seasons in Palo Alto. Theme for the conference was: The push for customer advocacy. Reinvent your brand through the Rise of Social Commerce

Shoppers want to belong. They want to be heard. They crave a better buying experience. Power is shifting from the retailer to the shopper. Social commerce is filling the void between clicks and bricks to deliver this personalized experience.

Technologies are emerging to answer the challenge. Point of Presence (POP) is combining with Point of Sale (POS) to influence, persuade, and guide shopping. Artificial reality and virtualization is enhancing interaction. Social media is evolving to social commerce to improve the in-store and more importantly the online experience.

The following points represent my takeaways from this landmark session:

  • Social commerce was defined as “the use of social technologies to connect, listen, understand and engage to help improve the shopping experience.”
  • In 2010, 20% of 200 companies had a social commerce strategy; in 2011 86% plan to have one.
  • 90% of companies will increase funding for social commerce by 8% in 20011
  • It seems that the Social Commerce world is fixated on what they refer to as “frictionless commerce” vs. the value of relationships.
  • The vast majority of discussion centered around how to create direct sales by leveraging the social graph.
  • Although most examples reflected that the companies making the biggest inroads to increased sales are those that allow the most interaction/relationship building it seems most etailers have not been able to let go to that degree.
  • Brands, not etailers, are the ones doing the best job of nurturing/leveraging relationships. Seems it may be because they do not have the pressure of next quarter performance, and the need to show direct sales to senior mgmt, so have more leeway to nurture relationships and plan for the future.
  • “Birds of a feather flock together” clearly points to peers influence more within their personality/behavior groups, therefore a very positive element for OpenSky developing strong sales around taste-makers and affinity groups.
  • According to many presenters the Social Media/Commerce journey starts with curiosity (OpenSky’s discovery factor) and leads to Advocacy… sharing their great experiences (a key to OpenSky success).
  • Influencers, when/if they see the value, can create group habit by including the group in the before, during, and after. What seems clear is that it is important that OpenSky provide the tools for Sellers to allow/encourage their audience to share the fact that they are buying… via input, reviews, forums… which in turn will enable the “group effect’ to help them grow, build their brand and foster the purchasing behavior.
  • The Social Consumer is empowered and has influence of her own. Be certain to provide the tools that allow this consumer to leverage the new found power. She wants a dialogue and wants to be heard and recognized.
  • Influencers do not equal simple amplification of an offer/product value… but add depth and breadth to the relationship.
  • Facebook is not a channel for commerce, but a platform that can enable commerce. Many are mistakenly looking at FB as a channel.

It seems to me the view/perspective I keep hearing is all about leveraging consumer’s social graph to sell more product. But when I hear the case studies, and see where true progress is being made, I hear more about interaction, engagement, and sharing… i.e. relationships. When I think about social commerce what seems to be the greatest opportunity is growing/nurturing the connection, participation and loyalty of a consumer, which in turn will build ROR… Return on Relationship. This is the first step required to make all this social integration sustainable and long lasting. Relationships are what will lead to the ability to sell more, not using customers to sell more product, but by facilitating/enabling feedback, sharing, reviews, and therefore build dynamic advocates who openly sell product they love and are passionate about.

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