Applications like product reviews, recommendations and ratings are years old, and emerged as the most popular social media tools way before the term “social media” was actually coined. They enabled customers to find out what their peers were thinking, and provided valuable user data and feedback to the retailer which could be reviewed in “real-time.”
Retailers today continue to have a great opportunity to leverage social media in a way that’s both beneficial and effective for consumers and for themselves. And while it’s known that retailers are true pioneers in social media, the fact is that many still struggle with ways to fully integrate it with their e-commerce platforms.
Building a truly interactive social media community within an e-commerce platform is important as it creates a more efficient retail environment where customer opinions, relevant content and product information are freely distributed. It is only then that “social commerce” can happen.
To accomplish “social commerce,” retailers must be able to integrate social media elements, such as social networking features and user generated content platforms, directly into their commerce environments.
IBM is one technology provider that has responded to customers’ desires to have a more interactive online experience by creating a comprehensive social commerce platform. Utilizing tools provided by Pluck, IBM is now able to offer advanced “social commerce” capabilities to its current customers or prospects, thus enabling retailers to integrate the social experience seamlessly between online shopping and social networking communities like Facebook and MySpace.
As a result, retailers can create and own a unique social experience that encompasses the entire customer lifecycle — generating a positive outcome for the retailer, and for its customers. Customers can enjoy a more integrated shopping experience that stretches across their social networks, and retailers will start to see an increase in unique visitors that are predisposed to their messages. Ultimately, this will result in more streamlined marketing efforts and lower operational costs.
Instead of selling to nameless, faceless shoppers, retailers can build relationships with real customers by enabling them to establish user profiles that pull in data — and relationships — to retailer websites. Customers can then interact with other shoppers, join groups centered around product-related topics, rate and react to product content, contribute project journals and how-to content, and answer each others’ questions about products and use cases. The retailer, meanwhile, gains the opportunity to build a long-term relationship — and a “social CRM” practice — around these efforts.
As the online world continues to evolve and become more competitive, understanding how to merge e-commerce with social media is critical for retail success. “Social commerce” integrates new media, via user generated content platforms and social networking features, directly onto commerce sites. By building and maintaining vibrant communities that address the passion of the retailer’s core audience, and then spreading that passion to the larger social web, retailers will attract loyal and engaged customers, and will achieve better business results.