Commerce is defined as the activity of buying and selling. A few years back e-commerce became the buzz word. By the time we managed to sort out e-commerce, the new trend is now s-commerce or social commerce. Trend is definitely new but the idea is not. Social commerce is online version of the good old word-of-mouth publicity.

With the advancement in communications technologies, people “socialize” more through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Fancy, etc. When they ‘share’, ‘Like’, or ‘Fancy’, they express their choices and preferences at every stage of shopping; before, during and after. Social commerce looks to leverage this information about these users to drive online engagement and subsequent sales.

Driving traffic to your online store and converting them into paying customers is very expensive, so it is important to have cheaper means of acquisition available, and more importantly, have the users become loyal customer. Social media is a great tool for enabling such loyalty and engagement. For a product that depends a lot on look and feel (fashion and lifestyle primarily) or are expensive, buyers rely on references from their trusted friends. Such merchants must invest in social media. For others, while the urgency may be lower, lower acquisition and retention costs should be a driving factor. There are 3 steps to implementing a great social media strategy.

Enable Sharing

Adding sharing buttons (‘Like’, ‘g+’, ‘Pin It’, ‘Fancy’, ‘Tweet’, ‘Follow’, ’email’, etc.) to the site is a must for an online business. A user visiting your site may not necessarily buy the product but only take a fancy to it. By encouraging them to share the choice on their favorite social sharing site, you are getting word out about your product, as well as get valuable insights into what your visitors are interested in. Similarly, when your user shares a recent purchase, they signal a lot of information about themselves. All this helps you in analyzing the data on your potential customers. Facebook is planning to launch social commerce in a big way, so concentrate on building up Facebook fans and followers. Once Facebook launches social plug-ins like “Want,” you will be able to gather and analyze more data about shopping preferences of your potential customers. These data also allows you to build tools to allow engagement with your fans and followers.

Enable Engagement

Creating pages for your online shop on social media is necessary but not sufficient. Regular posts and tweets should be part of your strategy so that they stay fresh and relevant for your fans and followers. These fans and followers should also feel encouraged to share their comments about your brand and products and you should actively answer their queries and handle their negative comments gracefully (easier said than done!). This will drive the engagement level within your fans and followers and generate the buzz needed to build a community. This extends to post-purchase scenarios, where social media is leveraged these days by users as their customer support destination, be ready for it rather than shun it.

Enable Community

Influencers like to own and drive discussions about everything they like or dislike. Offer them tools like live chat rooms and forums so that they can influence more people to be your fans and followers. This also increases the time visitors spend on your site, which increases the chances of conversion (number of visitors who actually buy your products). Members of an engaged community will enthusiastically rate and review your products after they buy and use; this is crucial for increasing conversion too. A study by nielson-online says that 81% online buyers look for product reviews before actually making the purchase.

When you do social well on your site, commerce takes care of itself. However, executing these steps is a continuous process, you need to monitor the results and refine your plans and execution. You will soon discover creative and unique ways of enabling sharing, engagement and community-building which are most relevant for your business. Do share your discoveries with us!