Two years ago, selling products directly on social platforms seemed to be the wave of the future. Brands like 1-800-Flowers and Levi's were lavished with positive press for their social commerce launches. The overall results were disappointing, however, and panned by the industry as inefficient. Social commerce, many felt, was dead on arrival.
Now, though, a new wave of brands is proving that with an innovative perspective, success is possible in this space. Instead of just buying a new purse, for example, users of littleblackbag.com swap their new purses within a community. American Express cardholders can make purchases by adding a hashtag to their Twitter posts.
Successful brands have learned that simply adapting the .com experience for social channels is a path to failure. Brands need to view social channels as what they are and reward their communities' loyalty with exclusive products, one-of-a-kind deals and experiences that ultimately lead to increased passion from their followers. Without this, a brand's energies will be better focused on other marketing initiatives.
Social is playing a critical role in how we think about selling, profit and generating revenue. Notions of what we decide to share about ourselves and how we interact within the global community have shifted along with the growth of social platforms.
Users have become more comfortable releasing their data to brands in exchange for value. A 2012 study by Accenture found that 61% of online shoppers would be willing to give up data for personally relevant offers; 75% of online shoppers preferred retailers that use personal information to improve the shopping experience.
As customers' attitudes have evolved, social data have become integrated more fully into search engines to produce personalized search results. Social platforms are also willing to part with data. With the recent launch of Partner Categories, Facebook is combing data from third-market sources, along with its own data, to leverage in robust ad targeting and re-targeting. Assuming that the user gives permission, Facebook is also willing to give brands access to a user's newsfeed, photos, like data, friend data, etc., allowing brands to not only create customized experiences on their platform, but totally immersed, customizable experiences on a native website (see Intel's Museum of Me or Grey Poupon's Society of Great Taste).
It isn't simply just using social data, but combining that data with other sources that can really lead a brand into providing a great commerce experience.
If a large Internet retailer could take the data it has about your shopping habits (what you've purchased, what items you've done research on) and combine that with data points obtained through your social activity (what brands you like, what your friends like, where you check in), they could produce such a relevant site experience. Instead of showcasing everything in the store, they would be able to narrow down the selection to only things that you would be interested in – what we call the "segment of one."
We have to include the social web in our commerce experiences, use social data to personalize these experiences and ensure that we are complementing our other activities to create winning experiences that meet our customers' needs -- and drive more revenue.