Five Keys for Social Commerce

While many companies are trying to tap into the 750 million potential shoppers on Facebook with different flavors of social commerce, most are missing the keys of what it really takes to make ecommerce efforts social.

This is because most social commerce offerings to date have simply taken the existing ecommerce model and sprinkled a little social on it. For some, this means offering sellers a tab on their Facebook page that enables them to showcase products, with links back to their site, sort of like a Facebook catalogue. Still other startups have added transactional features to these catalogues with an iFrame-based storefront.

But social commerce is more than just putting up a Facebook storefront and adding a Like button. To fulfill the promise of social commerce, you need to take advantage of the Facebook ecosystem. This means enabling social promotion and discovery of products based on customers’ social graph (what friends like). It also means integrating conversation into the shopping experience, allowing shoppers to interact with sellers and ask questions about products just as they would at a physical store location.

Ultimately, social commerce should give sellers the ability to combine social data with traditional ecommerce analytics to better understand their customers.

Here are five key elements social commerce companies should focus on to truly capitalize on the huge opportunity presented by social platforms:

1. Delivering an Audience

One of the biggest challenges for sellers on Facebook is getting people to their storefront, particularly if they don’t have a large fan base. Companies that can provide a built-in audience for driving traffic to sellers will be in high demand.

2. Enabling Social Promotion

Most sellers have little social marketing expertise and are surprised when their Facebook store fails to generate immediate sales. A part of making social commerce viable is empowering sellers to promote themselves, quickly and easily. Social commerce contenders should look for ways to provide sellers with easy-to-use tools or turnkey services to promote their products via social channels.

3. Driving Social Discovery

Putting a Like or Share button on each product is a good start. But once someone Likes or Shares your product and it posts to their feed, it’s gone after five minutes. Companies in the social commerce space need to offer ways to create persistence around Likes and use this feedback to fuel recommendations, which can then become one of the primary ways people see and discover products.

4. Creating Taste Graphs

While a shopper’s network of friends may share some of their interests, they won’t always be able to look to these friends for recommendations on every type of product. For example, someone might be interested in buying motorcycle helmets, but have only a handful of friends who know anything about motorcycles. This is where “Taste Graphs” come in. Taste graphs use Facebook data to map a person’s interests to like-minded people. By driving recommendations based on people’s interests, social commerce companies can provide sellers with another powerful way to steer shoppers towards their products.

5. Mashing Up Social and Ecommerce Data

The Holy Grail for social merchandising is integrating social data with traditional ecommerce analytics to give sellers an understanding of their customers. Sellers should overlay social and taste graph data onto ecommerce analytics, such as purchase history, to answer “What is the social profile of people who buy this product?”

This is the beginning of the real promise of social commerce: true social shopping. We are already seeing companies create their own social shopping networks within Facebook, either built around particular interests or products or more like a real-world shopping mall, with a single cart across thousands of sellers.

Forget the crowds at the mall. In a few years, you may be doing all of your holiday shopping on Facebook.

Christian Taylor is founder and CEO of Payvment, which has raised about $8 million in funding from 500 Startups, BlueRun Ventures and Sierra Ventures. He can be reached at ctaylor@payvment.com.