Lee Odden

Which Flavor of Social Commerce Is Right For You?

Social Commerce Flavors

Photo credit: timtak via Flickr

Social Commerce is a very hot topic right now with numerous blog posts, articles and even a few events focused on ecommerce and social media.

Adding ecommerce functionality to social sites is something that I’ve wondered about for quite a while:

“What I’d like to see more of is the availability of basic ecommerce functions as plug ‘n play options with major blog software packages. Blogs are good for business, big and small and I think there’s a lot of opportunity for business and value for consumers with ecommerce blogs.” Dec 28, 2005.

Too bad I wasn’t more of an advocate for social commerce since, but then again, consumers haven’t really responded well to shopping implementations with social media sites until recently, if at all.

Overt marketing messages have not traditionally been very welcome within social channels but as more brands become involved, consumers are expecting more than being able to comment, rate and share.

When considering the question of ecommerce and social media, I think there are two fundamental approaches to consider:

Adding social media features to existing ecommerce websites.

Levis Facebook Like

Examples of this are abundant now, especially with the addition of Facebook Like buttons on shopping sites and the ubiquitous social news, bookmarking and Tweet this buttons. See a great pair of jeans on Levis.com? There’s a Facebook Like button there to share it with friends, to get opinions or just let them know what you found. The Digital IQ Index Specialty Retail report (download pdf) from earlier this year found: “Retailers who currently host the “like“ button on their site demonstrated 80 percent higher average three-month traffic growth.”

Effect of Social Features on Traffic for Retail WebsitesOther social features that have long been in place with ecommerce and shopping sites include ratings and reviews which are well entrenched in certain industries like travel & hospitality. Adding links to social sites a company is active on is a pretty common feature for services like Google Places.

Plus servies like Groupon adds an entirely different angle to social and commerce.

Adding social features to existing commerce platforms and situations is the low hanging fruit of social commerce at the moment and studies like this one from Eventbrite show a clear revenue benefit. I suspect its something consumers are starting to expect.

When I was in a somewhat remote place last week on the South island of New Zealand, I noticed the standard “Visit us online at companysite.com” was often replaced with: “Visit us online at (followed by Facebook and Twitter icons). I’m sure you’ve seen such signage in storefront windows in your town as well. Social connections are becoming part of expected exchanges between consumers and the brands they buy from. The opportunity for brands is, how relevant and useful (and easy) can they make these exchanges as part of the customer relationship?

Adding sharing, interaction, rating/review or even something like group buying to a web property that is already perceived as a destination for ecommerce transactions is an easier thing to do than adding ecommerce to a social media site and it’s likely perceived as more appropriate. It’s a way of showing that the brand isn’t just about selling product/services, but that its open to connecting and useful engagement too. Companies are increasingly rewiring more than their web sites for such social commerce.

Incorporating ecommerce functionality within social media websites.

Target Facebook Club Wedd Fan PageEarly adopters for adding ecommerce and transaction capabilities within social media sites include Brooks Brothers and 1800Flowers with storefronts and Walmart with a deals app on Facebook. Another major retailer, Target, put searchable product inventory on Facebook as part of their Club Wedd registery offering, but the actual transactions take place on the Target.com website.

It’s still early days for finding the right way to add ecommerce functionality within a communication environment that is intended to be social, not transactional. Of the early adopters that added online stores to Facebook or their blogs, I do wonder how profitable those initiatives are at this point.

My cautious optimism about social ecommerce doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s an area that will take hold. I do, as long as merchants can make the buying experience part of the social experience. I suspect that’s going to be different by industry and community.

What do you think?

Are social networks and media sites ready and appropriate for transactional ecommerce functionality? How seriously should brands take the opportunity for order capture within social media sites?

From a consumer perspective, have you ever ordered something within Facebook or another social media site? If you’ve checked in out and didn’t why not? If you did, what made you comfortable and would you do it again?

In fact, let’s take a formal poll on which “flavor” of social commerce our readers are implementing most:

How are you implementing social media and ecommerce together?

  • We're doing both (38%, 18 Votes)
  • We're adding social features to our existing ecommerce website(s) (30%, 14 Votes)
  • We're not doing either - but plan to do something in 2011 (15%, 7 Votes)
  • We've created an ecommerce capability within a social media site (like Facebook or a Blog) (13%, 6 Votes)
  • We're not doing either and do not plan to (4%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 47

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. great picture , made me want a chocolate flavor right now !!! hah
    i do agree with what you mentioned , i do believe social commerce is a very hot topic since using this can improve results so thank you for talking about this and i did find many helpful useful informations

  2. We’re in the beginning stages of this venture, trying to decide what works best for us and our business model as well as where our customers are on social sites. Any good B2B examples?

    • I don’t know of any B2B companies that have setup ecommerce functionality within social media sites. Since B2B tends not to be a transaction online, outside of a lead gen form, I’m not sure what that would look like.

      There are many examples though, of B2B companies using social channels to promote content and drive traffic to their websites and getting great returns. One of our favorites in that category is the success of http://blog.marketo.com

  3. i tend to find that social media never converts. with that said, its a great way to get in front of eyes and start that brand recognition, but just cannot seem to get sales out of tweets or facebook updates

    • Bri, I have a feeling that is the case with many others as well. What I’m wondering is if those that have invested in creating ecommerce destinations within social networking or media sites are seeing expected returns. Ex: Online stores within Facebook. I wouldn’t expect much at this point, but as more brands add that kind of feature, it might become something consumers expect and feel more comfortable with.

  4. I think you pose an interesting question. Part of the ‘charm’ of social networks currently is that you don’t get the commerce bit, however I do think that it’s inevitable that it will become more prevalent – particularly with Facebook. Twitter, I’m not so sure. I think as long as it doesn’t get shoved down your neck at every opportunity, then it’s to be expected, eventually..

  5. I think, incorporating a website’s business on social media websites can generate leads via subscription and about direct sales I should confess they are still under test.

  6. Social msedia is great for building relationships and getting in touch with people. I have have been trying to convert alot of my traffic from various accounts with little success. In order to get any conversions at all you have to do the soft sell or indirect sell. I put maybe 1 commercial post for every 10 personal or niche related posts with no selling. Promoting your article or reviews of products work bet for me.

    • It’s an iterative cycle of testing and refinement. Some social channels accept offers and others do not. It comes down to being relevant and timely.

  7. I too am not so sure how e-commerce within social networks would work, because I don’t think there is a complete trust factor there yet. The social networks are key for brand recognition but the connection with e-commerce might be one that takes a while.

  8. Fast Company is reporting that J. C. Penney has just put their entire online catalog inside Facebook. Whatever is on their website is now within FB. The cash register just got that much closer to the water cooler.

    • I saw that. There’s a Minneapolis company called Alvenda.com that is powering a lot of the new brands setting up ecommerce on Facebook like Best Buy, Brooks Brothers and Delta Airlines.

  9. Hello
    I have a mix feeling about selling on Social Network like Facebook. There is a great Small Business
    Website for free on the net, with more than 1 million members, where you can interact with local costumers, http://www.merchantcircle.com. You will be able to connect follow,send coupons, news leters, all together have a Mini Site of your Business. I call it “Business Facebook” I prefer to expose the product as much as I can, on Social Networking and cross link it then let the our company site do the selling.
    Just created a “hub” ( http://floristsupply2020.blogspot.com/ ) for that reason in the coming months will see if I was right. Any feed back,advise will greatly help me to go the right direction.
    Thank you

  10. Factors like ratings and reviews greatly influence a person. As a site concerning ecommerce, these two can help customers decide which one they need to buy or not since both affect the decision making process of buyers.

  11. Avatar colgan smith says

    Nice to see, that was  a interesting article.