Social commerce has long been the Holy Grail for retailers and social media giants alike. And who can blame them? Social media platforms engage billions of consumers daily – a goldmine brands are eager to tap into. Early and more recent attempts from Facebook (Gift option, anyone?), Twitter and more, failed to make it easy to make a purchase, and often felt intrusive to people who were on the sites primarily for connection versus commerce.
That's why the relaunch of Facebook's Marketplace caught my attention. Despite a lukewarm reception to the original Marketplace experience back in 2007, and some "technical difficulties" in the days following availability last week, Facebook is making another go at social commerce because it clearly sees the lucrative potential of owning more of our online shopping experiences. With a reported 450M people already visiting "buy and sell" groups on the site, there’s certainly consumer interest to build on.
Yet, based on our recent survey conducted in partnership with YouGov, it's going to take a lot more effort to move U.S. women 18-65 from 'Like' to buy on social platforms. 73% of the women surveyed said they prefer to use social sites for interacting with others rather than shopping. And while social media continues to be a huge driver for product discovery, when women find something they want to purchase, they will most commonly leave the social site and go to Amazon (49%) or a retailer’s website (45%) to buy. Nearly half the women said that shopping through social via smartphones is "frustrating" because browsing for products is more difficult and there is no easy way to do price comparisons. Security and privacy concerns are also strong barriers.
Still, social commerce feels within reach. In fact, Chinese consumers long ago realized the social commerce dream, as evidenced by the popularity of Alibaba's Taobao or Tencent's WeChat. Americans are starting to catch up as attitudes around social media change and their digital lives continue to blend.
So what will be the tipping point for social commerce? There’s no silver bullet yet, but getting there is possible with a blend of the right technology innovation and the right story for customers. Facebook, for example, could start by adding Marketplace features like direct payment options and the ability to rate buyers and sellers to make it a more seamless, trustworthy experience. And, of course, brands are wise to remember that content is still king in getting consumers to engage with them in the first place. Community, content and commerce could prove to be the winning formula. That’s something that any brand would ‘like.’