Bianca Freedman’s 5 Things About Social Commerce

January 16, 2014 Jonathan Paul

Social Commerce Walmart

Social commerce is a rising star in retail. But what exactly is it? Well, obviously, it’s a combination of social media and commerce. These days, people are really into things like peer reviews and having a direct line of communication with the brands they love while making purchase decisions. Brands are increasingly realizing that they can use that behaviour to sell more successfully.

“Take an ROI lens to the social behaviour surrounding your brand organically.”

Of course, that’s just the very tiniest tip of the iceberg when it comes to explaining what social commerce is all about. To find out the full skinny, we turned to Bianca Freedman, Marketing and Communications Manager, PR and Social Media at Walmart Canada. She’s got the inside scoop, which she’ll be sharing in detail with attendees of Dx3 2014, but we thought a Q&A with her would be in order just to give a little upfront taste of what this social commerce thing is all about.

What is social commerce?

Bianca Freedman is speaking about Social Commerce at Dx3 2014.

Simply put, social commerce is the act of leveraging social behaviour to drive sales. At Walmart, for example, we’re focused heavily on spotlighting peer reviews and brand dialogue near point of purchase.

What are the business benefits?

The business advantages speak in numbers. On Walmart.ca, customers who interact with user generated content while shopping convert about 300% higher than those who do not, which is true across almost every merchandising category.

Social commerce has a warmer side, too. It’s about building trust in the eCommerce offering by incorporating authentic social content into the experience. At Walmart, we’re serving customers the rich, peer-to-peer content they need to research, engage with and complete their purchase decision.

“We’re constantly amazed by how much customers want to help each other out.”

Is social commerce essential for retailers?

It’s essential to take an ROI lens to the social behaviour surrounding your brand organically. Ask those patterns what they’ve done for you lately. Are you targeting influencers when you could be leveraging them? We’re constantly amazed by how much customers want to help each other out. In many cases, customers are literally selling the products they love for us. It’s a beautiful thing.

Another great advantage for retail is how much you learn from your customers. Social content alerts you to market patterns faster and allows you to make business decisions based on customer feedback. It’s not all rosy when it comes to reviews. Poor reviews are fantastic sources of information for merchants.

“Walmart product reviews were peppered all over the internet before we launched our social commerce program.”

How do you successfully integrate a social commerce strategy? What are the challenges?

The first step is to consider what you want to achieve and start where you can measure the impact of your efforts.

Start with your most critical needs. Customers require content to narrow decisions. Walmart product reviews were peppered all over the internet before we launched our social commerce program, confirming what we already knew: price-sensitive customers strongly rely on peer reviews before making a purchase decision.

The biggest challenge we have is tying the success of ratings and reviews to the store experience in a meaningful way. Industry data tells us that 84% of customers research a purchase online before making it in store, but we’ve yet to concretely connect the data points. This year, we re-launched Walmart.ca as a fully responsive site for any device, making strides in carrying our online social offering to the store experience.

What are the major concerns about social commerce?

There has been an influx of news coverage lately about companies cherry-picking reviews or falsifying favourable content. I am proud to say that Walmart Canada is working with the best technology partner in the industry to ensure authentic content rules our site. We have teams and technology in place to study review patterns and identify any questionable behaviour. Next year, we’ll proudly display the Bazaarvoice Trust verification on Walmart.ca.

Are there different kinds of social commerce? Which ones are most successful in encouraging people to make purchases?

Mashable has a great article on this titled, The Seven Species of Social Commerce – check it out. What’s exciting, though, is the unique position eCommerce retailers have to combine these species to present the ultimate online shopping experience. Are we there yet? No. But hold on tight we’re getting there fast.

“We’re starting to think of our best reviewers as serious influencers and acting on it.”

How is social commerce evolving?

More function, less fluff. New social media platforms like Polyvore are emerging with commerce at their core, proving that engagement and purchase can coexist. eCommerce sites like ours are doing more with the insights gathered, evolving products and experiences to meet the needs of customers. We’re starting to think of our best reviewers as serious influencers and acting on it. Rich content is more important than ever. eCommerce sites like ASOS and West Elm are showing us all a thing or two about the impact of video content on sales. Remote locations will be better and more economically served by e-retailers thanks to registries and community buying. There’s so much happening – social commerce is an exciting place to be!

See more information about Bianca Freedman’s 5 Things session at Dx3 2014.

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