Social Commerce

The Future of Social Commerce | Learning from Crunchies Finalists

There are two types of people; those who don’t know the future, and those who know they don’t know the future.  We’re in the second camp, but we also share Gibsonian insight that ‘the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed‘.  So does the announcement of the six finalists for the social commerce category of this year’s Crunchies tech-Oscars give us any insight in where social commerce is headed?

Let’s take a look at the six finalists for the best social commerce app, as described by CrunchBase tech directory

  • Blippy: Blippy is a service that allows you to automatically share your credit card transactions as you make them. This includes the place you made the purchase, the amount, and in some cases, the item. This is all placed in a social stream where other Blippy users can comment on and “like” the various items.
  • Groupon: Groupon features a daily deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in more than 150 cities around the world. By promising businesses a minimum number of customers, Groupon can offer deals that aren’t available elsewhere. Groupon brings buyers and sellers together in a fun and collaborative way that offers the consumer an unbeatable deal, and businesses a large number of new customers. To date, it has saved consumers more than $300 million and claims it has generated millions in revenue for the businesses it features.
  • Jetsetter: Jetsetter is a private online community that provides members with insider access, expert knowledge, and exclusive deals on the world’s greatest vacations. All of the properties they feature are hand-selected by their team of globe-trotting correspondents, and sales last five to seven days. Their philosophy is that travel should be fun and easy — and that includes the planning part
  • LivingSocial: LivingSocial is the social commerce leader behind LivingSocial Deals, a group buying program that invites people and their friends to save up to 90 percent each day at their favorite restaurants, spas, sporting events, hotels and other local attractions in major cities. LivingSocial has an extensive user base of more than 85 million, and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
  • One Kings Lane: One Kings Lane is a private online sales destination specializing in designer décor, furniture, accessories and gifts. Through 72-hour brand- and theme-specific events (at least three per day, five days a week), members have access to limited quantities of high-end designer goods at up to 70 percent off. Membership is free.
  • Shopkick: Shopkick bridges the worlds of mobile and physical retail. It is the first program that gives consumers rewards and offers simply for walking into a store iPhone app here., and thus drives foot traffic to retailers. The shopkick app automatically recognizes when the user has entered a partner retail store, based on the first low-cost PRESENCE technology called shopkick Signal (vs GPS, which is a VICINITY technology with a 50-1,000 yards error radius on mobile). In August 2010, shopkick launched its flagship mobile service – in partnership with Best Buy, Macy’s, American Eagle, Sports Authority and Simon Malls (largest mall operator in the U.S.).

So we have one credit card transaction sharing application, two private sales apps, two group-buy apps and one mobile rewards app. Is this the future of social commerce?  What more can we learn? Here are a few thoughts…

  • Facebook e-commerce (f-commerce), but not yet:  What’s notable by its absence, especially given its dominant presence among the initial nominees, are any Facebook e-commerce apps. Perhaps it’s too early, but with investor groups such as CMEA Capital predicting “It’s a matter of time—within the next five or so years—before more business will be done on Facebook than Amazon” it’s surprising to not see Facebook e-commerce apps represented
  • Get vertical: Two of the six finalists are specialists in industry verticals – interior design and travel – successful social commerce apps in the future may build on this trend and focus on industry verticals
  • It’s all about the deal: With one exception, all the apps are deal apps – will future-proof social commerce apps be about deals?
  • You don’t need to be that social: Facebook social sign-on and share are all you need; four of the finalists are basically deals-by-email businesses with a bit of social bolted on
  • You’ll need a mobile app: All the finalists without exception offer mobile apps, and three of the finalists are geo-local businesses
  • You’re a clicks and mortar app: Social commerce was originally defined as a subset of e-commerce, but with the exception of one, all finalists in the social commerce app add a social ‘click’ layer to traditional bricks and mortar retail
  • You’re in the ad business: One common theme among finalists is that they all a new generation of advertising, specifically, performance advertising – Groupon, LivingSocial and Shopkick are next-gen local advertising, Jetsetter and One Kings Lane are new model of redemption-driven online advertising, and Blippy is word of mouth advertising
  • You’re an online events company: Four of the six finalists are effectively online events companies – managing real-time shopping events (flash sales and group buy)
  • Use the magic words: shopping, deal, sales, fun, love, simple, friends, mobile, service; plug in the “about us” text from all six of the finalists websites to wordle word cloud generator – this is what you get – copywriters on your marks…

Chartered psychologist specialising in consumer behaviour, wellbeing and technology. Certified CX professional experienced in Design Thinking. A researcher, writer and speaker, Paul is head of Digital Insight at SYZYGY.

11 Comments Add New Comment

  1. The finalists, save for shopkick, are quite uninspiring.
    I think there is a little silicon valley nepotism in there too.

    – I dont think deals necessarily create s future-proof offering – fatigue is setting in already. we need to create new facets of customer utility not just hammer existing ones.

    1. Hi Liad, thanks for the smart comment – I couldn’t agree more with you that deals are not the b-all and end-all of social commerce, and that social commerce needs to go beyond the deal.

      But I do think deals are part of the DNA of social commerce – more or less a hygiene factor now -c.f. Michael Levy “2011: Consumers won’t buy a product unless they feel they’ve gotten a great deal on it, and they expect a reward for spreading the word“.

      Take for example Paul Chaney’s article yesterday that provides a ‘get real’ caution for f-commerce – part of the problem why Facebook stores are not selling is that too many retailers are simply replicating their site-based stores (or worse, simply linking to them) – they have no raison-d’etre. I’d propose that Facebook stores would work better when they offer ‘specials’ for followers, and reward them for sharing. More event-shopping retailing than static e-commerce.

      Of course, selling in Facebook is all about being remarkable (literally) – to harness the word of mouth effect of selling in a social network. We know that 70%+ of all word of mouth is the result of an experience that is at odds with expectations, so retailers have to do something remarkable to sell on Facebook – that could either involve price promotions, rewards or, as you suggest, remarkable utility. Thoughts?

      And on the finalists themselves, Silicon Valley nepotism? No, never ;-) but with a front-cover on Forbes, a $6bn Google offer, and $1bn financing – Groupon (and variations on the theme (all other finalists except Blippy)) was bound to be this year’s social commerce poster-child.

  2. In Regards to “f-commerce” and apps, its difficult for any retail or peer-to-peer commerce apps to thrive because the consumer can NOT view the products (whats being sold) on the profile page. FB has buried apps to ‘boxes’ and made adding applications even more difficult. Unless they change that for ecommerce the only social commerce you will see thrive are virtual gaming/goods like Farmville. Since they have done this you have seen social commerce apps decrease in popularity and fb marketplace come back into existence. The closest many retailers are getting to success with a social retail play is with the FB ‘like’ button attached to their products on their external sites. When it comes to commerce, I think FB wont be making any large beneficial moves for shopping apps until it can figure out how to get a piece of the pie with its payment platform.

    1. Hello Rhett, thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree the UX for f-commerce is sub-optimal at the moment, and Facebook won’t make it easier until it sorts itself out as a decent payment platform. But I think it’s coming – and now is the time to experiment and learn.

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