Social shopping is here and 75% of customers seek advice from others when shopping online. Much of the technology to do what you see above is already there and it is available to us. I have never seen such a shopping experience in store but the most technically savvy shoppers can get almost everything they see in this video on the web or their mobile device. Sites like justbought.it link your credit card with you phone and make purchases with the click of a button and have the option of telling your networks about these purchases as well. You can create avatars to try things on. You can visually mix and match outfits, create outfit sets and share them on sites like Polyvore. There are plenty of applications already that integrate visual interactive experiences for shoppers. Augmented reality is a huge part of this experience. The movement toward more social shopping online makes complete sense when you think about it. Shopping is often a social activity for consumers so when it comes to ecommerce, the future is social.
Should ecommerce retails be worried? Yes and no. I subscribe to the belief that worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but doesn’t get you very far. Nevertheless, here is what you should be thinking about right now to prepare for the inevitable future of social shopping.
1. User experience: When people are shopping on your site, what is the experience they have? Do you integrate any social applications in with the experience? Do you make suggestions about what other purchases can compliment their purchases? Put yourself in your shopper’s shoes for a minute and ask the right questions. The truth is, there are probably hundreds if not thousands of places to buy what you are already selling online. If you are not thinking about making your user experience something to talk about, you need to start moving.
Value added tip: A helpful word of mouth rule of thumb is this: UR = UE meaning you are the user experience. If your site is boring, hard to get around, and full of worthless content- so are you (at least that is what your audience, the customer, assumes). So get user friendly. People remember user experiences that are either really bad or really good. Unfortunately, they are more likely to talk about it if it is really bad. Do you talk about the service at a restaurant if it was good? No because you expected it but you definitely do if it is bad. If you are already way to involved and attached to your site, hire someone in your target market to test it. Even better idea is to incorporate a social element into this. My first thought is to send out a tweet seeking existing customers to write meaningful reviews about your site. Give the first 5 people who reply to your tweet gift certificates to go shopping and then give them a space on your company blog or Facebook page to write a review or fill out a questionnaire to help you improve your site. This shows consumers that they come first and you reward shoppers, their feedback and their willingness to talk about you.
2. Getting Mobile: The key is convenience and just like real estate the key with consumer shopping behavior is location, location, location. If you are not right there when your customer is thinking about making the purchase, someone else is and that means you just missed a sale. Know how your social audience makes these decisions. If you keep missing the sale, you go out of business. Consumers check out products and consume information on the go right now all the time right now. More and more consumers are making purchases from their phones.
Value Added Tip: If you are only online, you want to be thinking about mobile applications that make it easy for your customer to browse, see reviews, shop, and buy with no more than 4 clicks from their mobile device. Why four clicks? This goes back to user experience but in essence you need one click for browse or search, one click for product view where you can see reviews, one click to add to shopping cart and one click to checkout. Done. Anything more is just way too complicated and when things get too complicated, consumers look elsewhere and they don’t like you anymore.
3. Getting Talked About: Along with the user experience and location theme for being mobile, ecommerce companies need to be talked throughout network channels as this will soon be playing an increasingly larger role in where consumers shop on the web and on their phones. This plays into social search among other things because now consumers can search products and see what their friends and friends of friends are saying about products, what they paid for them and much more.
Value Added Tip: Google’s got this possibility with the social circle’s you subscribe to on their social search but Bing is getting wind of the social shopping thing too and taking it a step further on mobile devices. Just last week they announced the improvements made to Bing shopping on certain smartphones. The service lets you post what your looking at buying to your social sites to get feedback from friends, see product reviews, what people are saying on all the networks, and check prices. That is just on Bing.
4. Getting Real About Price & Augmented Reality: Can you compete on Price? If your products are selling for way more than the next guy, you need to have another look at your model and make it work. Social integration with purchases has made it easier than ever for consumers to share what they’re buying and how much they’re paying in real time. This function makes it great for stores to add more to their in store experiences with augmented reality.
Value Added Tip: As you read this there are some very cool social sites that allow you to make purchases paid for by you credit card with the push of a button on your smart phone and have these purchases shipped to your doorstep that week. Depending on privacy setting, these social sites let you share what you just bought and for what price, when and where. These sites partner with augmented reality apps to make it possible for you to log on via your smartphone and walk through a retail location with your camera phone guiding the way. Through your camera phone you see which of your phonebook contacts (that you are connected with through the app) bought which products, for what price, and where.
Ecommerce businesses, these are some points to keep in mind. While they are helpful to thinking about the future and social shopping technologies, your sustainable competitive advantage is not in your technology. The key to a sustainable competitive advantage in a constantly changing technological environment is to be customer centric. Some of these social shopping applications may not even be relevant to your customers. Nevertheless, the key is to find out what is, what makes shopping easier and more enjoyable for you customer, create a strategy, then act. If at all possible, incorporate open leadership strategy into this by being open about what you need and want to improve upon for your customers. And always, reward talkers (the good and the bad) online, remember the rules of wom online, and stay connected with The Social Capitalist for more social media optimization articles.
What am I missing here? Do you think ecommerce should be concerned? What are you doing to be proactive about this?