Nine Execs On How To Build A Better Social Commerce Strategy

Social Commerce -
What's Next In Payments®
6:15 AM EDT June 3rd, 2015

From the launch of Domino’s “tweet-a-pizza” ordering system to Facebook’s “Messenger for Business” platform to the brand spanking new Buy Button on Pinterest, the influence of social commerce on commerce has never been stronger. But does that mean that social platforms will emerge to become eCommerce giants? PYMNTS.com asked nine industry leaders and learned some surprising things about their views on the relationship between social and commerce.


Tomás Campos

Blackhawk Network’s

General Manager, Online and Mobile, Tomás Campos

What makes a social platform successful in commerce?

Commerce is often a social experience. Shopping, for example, frequently involves engaging with friends and other trusted online sources for advice and recommendations along the path to purchase and post purchase. Additionally, consumers have adapted to prefer the quick, easy-to-digest style of social platforms such as Messengers as well as photo and video sharing. The extent to which these platforms leverage the natural social interactions and human engagement inherent in commerce will determine how successful they are.

Consumers don’t want to be interrupted during their social experiences or feel like their social tools are tracking them in a creepy way. Consumers do want to engage with their friends and their influencers along their path to purchase. Beyond the initial purchase, social tools allow consumers to share their products or experiences as well as learn from a community of others which can reinforce a brand and initiate another path to purchase. Lithium Technologies is an example of a social platform tapping into the post purchase experience. Fundamentally the natural integration of commerce with consumers’ daily social habits on these platforms will be the keys to success.

From your perspective do consumers enjoy integrating shopping with their social platform?

Absolutely. But widespread adoption will depend on how well the shopping experience is integrated into the social platform. In my opinion, there can be a number of missteps made when a retailer is attempting to insert their brand into a social interaction, including joining the conversation too late or too early. A more natural, consumer-driven process is necessary to ensure a positive shopper experience and increase efficacy. Consumers are increasingly “Instagramming” or “SnapChatting” products and experiences related to shopping. Social platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest have become important resources for the connected shopper. Consumers will often discover products or ideas from their network and influencers as part of their shopping experience.

Based on what you’ve seen so far what does social commerce look like in five years?

Moving forward, the social commerce experience will only become more tightly integrated in ways that are simple, non-intrusive and intuitive for customers. For instance, currently brands have a heavy marketing presence on social media, which funnels the consumer to their websites to shop further or make purchases. However, what if the actual purchase could take place within the social network, and the shopper didn’t have to have the jarring experience of being directed to another site? I see an especially huge potential for this type of integration on photo-sharing social platforms, like Instagram. In an era of shrinking attention spans and content overload, a picture can truly say 1,000 words. By enabling social experiences with payments capabilities, businesses will reduce the friction of online shopping even further.


Jon Squire CARDFREECARDFREE’s

Founder and CEO, Jon Squire

What makes a social platform successful in commerce?

We’d argue that no one has been successful in commerce to date but brands are starting to use social platforms in their commerce applications. For example, social platforms can help ease login with identification and registration. They can be integrated into apps to make the experience more full for consumers but we haven’t seen relevant use cases tied to commerce itself. More often than not payment credentials aren’t tied to social networks and consumers don’t associate them with payments period.

From your perspective do consumers enjoy integrating shopping with their social platform?

The only relevant examples that come to mind are deal sharing but nothing directly tied to shopping so far. It’s not to say it won’t happen but again consumers aren’t associating payments with their social networks so there’s a way to go to bridge the gap and add something of value to the process.

Based on what you’ve seen so far what does social commerce look like in five years?

The sharing component of social will drive purchase behavior when integrated with destination oriented apps that have community built in like Waze and Google Maps.


Gary Lombardo CashstarCashStar’s

Vice President of Marketing, Gary Lombardo

What makes a social platform successful in commerce?

Social platforms need to aggregate data  – customer, transactional, order, etc. – that exist across the retail enterprise (both stores and online) and then serve up intelligence from this data to the end consumer in real-time (or near real-time) in a seamless, relevant, and highly engaging user experience across channels, devices and geographies.  Most social platforms today cannot do this and rely on eCommerce and/or POS systems to do this- neither of which can do so on their own.  Social platforms need to figure out how to integrate with these existing “mission critical” platforms to achieve this vision since they are unlikely themselves ever to become mission critical platforms on their own. The ones that figure out how to do this most quickly and [in a] relevant way to consumers will be the most successful.

From your perspective do consumers enjoy integrated shopping with their social platform?

No. Most social platforms today provide a “siloed” experience since they aren’t aware of the consumer’s complete experience with a brand and their social network. They are also unaware of the complete set of offerings (product, promotions, etc.) available from a brand. As a result, most experiences are incomplete and not integrated. The social platform that successfully connects the dots between the brand and the consumer will be the one to succeed. Facebook is probably the only social platform that has the potential to do so given their size, resources and treasure-trove of customer data. However, they are missing the opportunity to tie in brands.  They’ve tried several different attempts to bring enabled commerce on their platform, but haven’t done so with a huge amount of success. Different experiences, such as Facebook Payments and Facebook Connect are, however, providing much value in the market and have the potential to over time bring a greater amount of value to both consumers and brands.

Based on what you’ve seen so far what does social commerce look like in five years?

Social commerce in 2020 won’t look too different from what it is today since solving the problem of connecting consumers and brands is a challenging one and will take more than 5 years to solve. We’ll likely see social shopping occurring more and more on the retailers’ site and stores (even more so than today) and less so across social sites, such as Twitter, etc. It will likely become more real-time and relevant (personalized and contextual to the consumer) as underlying systems get smarter about connecting the dots. We’ll likely see more mission critical platforms, such as POS and eCommerce systems start to evolve to connect the dots and include more social capabilities (leveraging tighter integrations with existing best-in-breed social players). Larger pure social players, such as Facebook and Twitter will likely become more “commerce enabled” by 2020, but won’t be a replacement for the brand’s site.  Other players who solve specific problems, such as daily deal sites that move inventory and offer deals, will continue to exist.


Lars CreditcallCreditcall’s

CEO Lars Pedersen 

What makes a social platform successful in commerce?

Depending how you define success and view commerce via the lens of the consumer or an enterprise, there are various perspectives on what makes a social platform successful in commerce.

Social channels are engagement tools that can further drive sales by way of improving brand awareness, customization, reputation, credibility and value to a consumer or business. However, emerging technologies are coming to market daily taking social monetization to a new level, and social platforms and secure payment solutions are becoming increasingly intertwined.

For instance, there are solutions that specialize in making video or Twitter shoppable, mobile ads that no longer have multi-screen checkout processes (i.e. Google), and social channels that do a phenomenal job showcasing relevant ads based on personal interests, like Facebook, that drive a new transaction. What’s next? Imagine if you can augment what a platform like LinkedIn does with searchable product information – the presentation of which is customized to each social platform user (using data analytics), and then you combine that with a communication and payments platform. This has endless possibilities in a business environment. You can see how such a platform could make it much easier for buyers and sellers to interact to the mutual benefit of both parties.

As social and payment technologies advances, so do consumers and businesses’ expectations and level of trust around a payment transaction on social platforms. Among consumer and businesses alike, there is a greater demand for a smooth end-to-end payment experience, with less click-thru’s. Following a year of data breaches in Target’s wake, there is also a heightened sense of awareness and expectations around the level of security associated with the payment transaction – especially in a culture where consumers and businesses are more trusting in sharing payment details online.

When it comes to the viability of social platforms for commerce in the future for B2B or B2C, it basically comes down to relevance.

For the B2B world, executives will leverage social platforms in commerce to:

1) Find new employees to help grow their own business

2) Identify, target and engage with new and existing customers, suppliers, partners and prospects

3) Gain unique insights relevant to the business (e.g. personal stories via Facebook, real-time takeaways around a company event on Twitter, or a unique opinion or engaging question shared on LinkedIn)

4) Raise executive and company profiles to strengthen credibility, innovativeness and approachability

For B2C, it is more about things like:

1) Find, connect and communicate with remote, old and/or new friends and family

2) Gain new insights or share new information around more personal interests – especially as more ‘real’ reviews and recommendations becoming increasingly crowdsourced

3) Discovering new people and/or brands with shared interests

4) Developing, strengthening and expanding your identity

As social networking platforms increasingly add in elements of commerce, and the technologies improve, I expect to see an increase in impulse buying and conversion for both businesses and consumers.

From your perspective do consumers enjoy integrating shopping with their social platform?

Yes, definitely. This is already happening to a great extent today, but there is still room for evolution to make the platforms more integrated. Case and point – Facebook generates its revenue from advertising and companies advertise on Facebook because users click on the ads and many times make purchases. The same applies to LinkedIn, but only for different types of products. As an example, the other day I clicked on a link on LinkedIn taking me to a Pulse article and inside the article was a link to an HBR article, which I purchased.

What has not happened yet, is the integration across the different types of platforms. Most of the social networking players are expanding their solutions to add in new types of communication, payments, security measures, and other crucial pieces for commerce.

Based on what you’ve seen so far what does social commerce look like in 2020?

As social platforms and payment technology become more sophisticated and intermixed, and the market matures and experiences more consolidation, this level of integration which I touched on earlier regarding the LinkedIn example (regarding a more seamless end-to-end payment transaction experience combining social and payment technologies) will be the norm by 2020. Additionally, it will be easier for consumers and businesses to combine more of the off-line world with the online.

One consumer example of this, are the growing number of emerging technologies that leverage photo recognition and enable you to simply snap a photo on your mobile and then share it via an innovative platform to purchase it. For companies, improved curated sites will demonstrate how more enterprises may take a page out of Etsy’s book to create more customized, shareable, easier-to-purchase solutions. Major retail chains like DUANEreade are already doing this. You will likely see commerce solutions like Amazon branch out more extensively into B2B and into social networking. Likewise, you already see Facebook adding enhanced communication and payments tools. These advancements will be driven by emerging technologies from industry giants and startups alike, and market access acquisitions, and the natural human (and business) interests around ‘must have’ and immediate gratification.


Bob Legters FISFIS North American Retail Payments

Chief Product Officer, Robert Legters

What makes a social platform successful in commerce?

A social platform, in general, builds referrals and lends credibility to your goods and services. It also drives that “gotta have it now” impulse among consumers, which encourages discretionary spending.

To truly be successful, standards of measurement need to be in place that track and analyze returning customers, adoption and click-thru rates, opt-out rates and conversions to sales. Definitively speaking, the platform needs to have a highly active user base that is enabling the interchange of goods and/or services.  Socially speaking, it has a savvy user base that is highly engaged in the exchange of ideas, thoughts, fads and more. And, commercially speaking, it has a growing user base that is performing various monetary transactions – from peer-to-peer payments, mobile Web and in-app purchases, and much more.

From your perspective, do consumers enjoy integrating shopping with their social platform?

Consumers do like when they can hear from friends or others about the value of something they are considering buying. A consumer’s level of engagement can vary greatly based on demographics, however. For instance, younger “Look at Me,” more digitally engaged shoppers will generally be more willing to share their purchases including pictures, what they like about the purchase and how it makes them feel; while older “Baby Boomer” shoppers may be less inclined to take part, sharing with family and close friends with direct messages and posts versus more “public” postings. Importantly, merchants also should be aware of those “Negative Nelly” types who will only share negative experiences.

Based on what you’ve seen so far what does social commerce look like in five years?

Biometrics will become far more common, including voice activation, which will allow consumers to order and post comments without ever typing or entering anything. And we’ll see more inter-connectivity between devices and brick-and-mortar sites, like BLE technology, as well as increased partnerships between payments, retailers and social media websites in general. Endorsement advertising will become the norm and create greater refinement in the ratings systems that enable consumer testimonials.


Srinivas NidugondiMahindra Comviva’s

Senior VP and Head of Mobile Financial Solutions, Srinivas Nidugondi

What factors determine the success of a social platform in commerce?

Today, social commerce is present in several variations such as peer recommendations (Amazon, Pinterest), P2P transfers (Facebook), hashtag banking (Kotak Mahindra Bank in India), group buying (Groupon), yet to come “buy” buttons on Google search and many more. Of these, only a handful of initiatives have caught on, primarily owing to the absence of a frictionless user experience. Creating custom handles and switching between applications adversely impact the customer’s experience, resulting in low user adoption. To drive uptake, several companies are pulling out all the stops to leverage social platforms as marketing tools to make their brand more “contemporary” in nature. In a nutshell, integrating various social channels into the overall customer experience has become a priority for any brand today.

In your opinion, are consumers open to integrating shopping with various social platforms?

Social media and commerce are a powerful combination. To illustrate-integrating social media and shopping not only enhances the overall experience but deepens the customer’s engagement with the brand. For example, industry studies show that Amazon witnessed an increase in sales by adding features like “Customers who bought this item also bought” and “Featured” recommendations’ to their website. Businesses that deliver customized engagement by interpreting a consumer’s social networking usage patterns will be able to optimally leverage the value obtained by investing in these platforms.

Based on what you’ve seen so far what does social commerce look like in five years?

In so far, we have merely scratched the surface of social commerce. We anticipate that while social commerce will not replace existing core payment mediums, it will flourish as a value-add to the same. For example, we may use a mobile wallet service to pay a bill, but features such as splitting the bill can be enabled through social handles. Meanwhile, digital identification will permeate from one’s mobile number and email to social handles and social networks will continue to provide significant insights into the user’s personality which businesses can leverage to their benefit.


Ayman HammadSimplyTapp’s

Head of Product Development, Ayman Hammad

What makes a social platform successful in commerce?

Social platforms can play a significant role in commerce in the sense of exchanging value between the various parties. Exchange of value includes the standard notion of commerce: purchasing merchandise, paying for a service and the movement of money between individuals or participating entities.

For social platforms to be successful in commerce, they must provide a value proposition to all parties involved and address specific needs. It shouldn’t be thought of as “build it and they will come.” When it comes to new platforms for commerce, history has proven the consumer to be weary. Instead, social platforms must couple value with the protection of privacy and support of secure infrastructure and technologies.

In addition, a seamless user experience is a must; a focus on functions appealing to the consumer is necessary and the experience should not be defined from the provider’s point of view.

The ultimate factors to success are flexibility and adaptability as the market changes and consumer needs become more defined.

From your perspective do consumers enjoy integrating shopping with their social platform?

Consumers certainly enjoy integrative social shopping experiences, so long as they are non-intrusive and done correctly. Consumers do not like to be bothered by a bombardment of ads and an overwhelming push of merchandising. What consumers want is to maintain control with the option to select conditions and criteria. Consumer control and preferences are imperative to consider. Additionally, consumer protection is a factor that should never be ignored.

Based on what you’ve seen so far what does social commerce look like in five years?

Social commerce is a fast-moving environment. Currently, trends are focused on facilitating commerce at an item level, as opposed to a basket level. In the coming years, there will be an increase in user collaboration and instantaneous feedback from the community. The winner will be that which focuses on the value proposition, while continuing to reinvent and evolve to the consumer’s wants and needs.

I believe social commerce will become a complete platform to the consumer. The value of exchanging funds will start to hold precedent over the aspect of commerce. Everything will be done in a competitive and instantaneous manner. A great example of this is Uber. They have paved a new consumer-driven industry that we will see much more of in months to come.


Toni WhiteSynchrony Financial’s

Chief Marketing Officer, Toni White

What makes a social platform successful in commerce?

Social platforms are prolific and can be widely accessed across almost all segments of the U.S. population. Our recent consumer survey (2015 Digital Study) reveals that 85 percent of the U.S. population say they have access to social media. However, having access and engaging on a social platform are two different things. It is important for brands to develop an impactful social media strategy. Companies with good social strategies have prioritized their objectives, developed meaningful content, and established a strong social governance culture.

From your perspective do consumers enjoy integrating shopping with their social platform?

Our research team just completed a survey on social media and shopping (2015 Digital Study). 30 percent of the U.S. population say they have purchased a product after seeing it on social media. This percentage has grown substantially in past years, particularly for younger segments of the population. The amplification impact of social media can be a great opportunity to engage with your customers, whether it is providing relevant content to build brand advocacy or just listening to what your customers are saying about what is important to them.

Based on what you’ve seen so far what does social commerce look like in five years?

We feel that social media will continue to have an impact on brand perceptions and drive retail growth in the coming years and could lead to more customer-driven innovations for companies.


Ysbrant Marcelis - VantivVantiv’s

VP of Strategy & Business Development, Ysbrant Marcelis

What makes a social platform successful in commerce?

Two truisms have persisted in digital commerce: First, consumers do not like paying for things — they like buying things. Second, shopping is fundamentally different from buying. Accepting these truisms, not all social platforms are made equal and consumers are going to prioritize platforms where the commerce experience is an intuitive extension of the existing interaction. However, as the truism goes, even those platforms that have compelling commerce experiences will not necessarily become true marketplaces. To illustrate this point, Pinterest has arguably the most obvious commerce experience of any social platform. Yet, the jury is out whether users going to Pinterest to ‘shop’ ideas will actually buy products associated with those ideas directly off Pinterest. The test for these platforms is not necessarily whether they can capture the transaction itself – which requires a buying experience that is substantially faster, better, cheaper and more ubiquitous than any alternative – but whether they are ultimately able to directly link buying behavior to platform engagement.

From your perspective do consumers enjoy integrating shopping with their social platform?

In an environment where the lines between physical and virtual are increasingly blurred, the question is not whether shopping can be integrated with social platforms but what commerce means in an inherently connected world. According to ICSC, the average American spends 54 minutes in a brick-and-mortar store – spending roughly 7x more than online. And that is for online experiences that are geared entirely towards shopping. However, with more than 75 percent of total purchases influenced by digital, social platforms have an unparalleled opportunity to capture, augment and amplify this influence. In this sense, it is not about becoming a marketplace, commerce destination or even owning the transaction – but about informing, influencing and empowering consumers. Successful platforms will be those where consumers are not actively integrating shopping into the experience but where product search, discovery, purchase and engagement is directly integrated into the experience itself.

Based on what you’ve seen so far what does social commerce look like in five years?

The next five years are likely to see a fundamental reorientation of what we think of as commerce. This is illustrated by the fact that a significant amount of content that is consumed today is fundamentally de-linked from a direct transaction – whether that is watching videos on YouTube, listening to songs on Spotify, using storage from Dropbox, or downloading free apps from Google and Apple. In this world, data is king and commerce will be much more about information, engagement, and empowerment than about monetizing the transaction itself. Social platforms are in pole position to become the connective tissue for a commerce environment that will be continue to be (increasingly) driven by the power of trust and shaped by the capacity to influence – seamlessly and intuitively across channels, products, environments, devices, merchants, consumers, and developers.

 

Comments
  • http://www.kindly.com/ @mikeriddell62

    Ha, not one of them can – within the next 5 years – foresee a complementary currency emerging that will be embedded in an app, and linked to a sustainable lifestyle rewards system.

    When punters can buy stuff using ‘lifestyle reward points’ rather than money or in part-payment for money, via their phone, then paying for stuff will become an elevated experience in iteslf that makes you feel good.

    I thought it was obvious that mindless consumerism was giving way to mindful consumerism. It certainly is over here in England’s north west where we have a greater regard for the planet’s resources than your US based industry leaders.

    Leaders my arse. Business has changed. Time they wised-up.

  • http://resultsbydesignconsulting.com Don Sieb

    The social media examples of embedding payments capability in their app is going to happen. The best example of payments in the app would be Uber. Consumers don’t use Uber because of the payment feature; they use the app because they need a ride.

    How many places does a consumer want to store their credentials like card information? How
    many different routing schemes does the industry want to use for tokenization and encryption? The ideal answer is one. I believe we will see the PayPal, Visa Checkout, MasterCard Secure Code, Apple Pay, Android Pay as the “payment app”integrated into mobile apps. The Social app providers like Twitter, Facebook, and more will be better served by attempting to standardize the user payment experience and focusing on creating meaningful customer engagements.

    Learn to use self-learning “Relevancy” engines, Big Data, Predictive Behavior Modeling, Geo-location Mapping modeling to automate the delivery of your customer interactions. The payment is the tail on the dog!

  • Shawn Miller

    Binfer makes video sharing very easy. Another nice option to send big videos.

Also by This Author