There are tons of businesses and brands eager to get a solid foothold in the social media scene. Sure, they’re able to set up Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs, and the like, but how do they really connect with their users. Is there something else besides creating conversation? What if you have a product that you’re trying to sell? Well believe it or not, it’s not that difficult to do. The premise is probably pretty simple: you want to encourage people to buy your product in a secure environment while also finding a way to exploit the sharing aspect of social media. Now how do you execute?
Well for starters, you could probably create some links back to your own store’s e-commerce section where they can buy your product. But then, how would you make it viral? You’d probably have to find some way to incorporate Twitter OAuth or Facebook Connect in order for the customer to share their experience. It would seem so unnatural though and there’s no guarantee that they would do that because it would also seem out of place. So if you can’t bring them to the experience, you might as well bring the experience to them. And one particular service has found a solution to do just that…
ShopIgniter, a provider of social commerce software, today announced its latest product: an enterprise-scale social commerce platform. Basically what this means is that for businesses, this is a new way for them to sell their products right inside the social network. Social commerce is a huge market opportunity for brands–in fact, it’s estimated to be a $30 billion industry globally over the next five years. And a lot of companies are starting to realize this. Many have already set up Facebook pages or Twitter feeds in order to come up with great ways to engage with their customers.
In a recent study by Booz & Co., retail, consumer electronics, and media companies are among the many types of organizations following consumers into social arenas. Even more, Shop.org reports that in 2010, 68% of North American consumer-oriented businesses have acquired at least some customers through Facebook. So the eventual trend here is pretty obvious: in the next phase of social media and buying, communication won’t be the “thing” anymore. Rather, Booz & Co believe that the next phase will be when consumers transact commerce inside social networks–selecting products, adding their selections to shopping carts, and completing purchases through payment with credit cards and points. This will signal the beginning of the social commerce era.
And this is exactly what ShopIgniter looks like it wants to do. They’re offering a complete solution that will give brands the tools that they need in order to create more commerce-centric (not consumer) designed with products and promotions in mind. In addition, this platform is designed to give businesses the ability to easily create, manage, and measure social commerce programs like VIP-only stores, product launches, curated product collections and storefronts. But first, ShopIgniter is going to have to get rid of the myths and fears associated with giving credit card payments over social networks like Facebook. In a Digitas infographic released earlier this month, one of the things brands will need to do is act with certainty to address security concerns. Out of those surveyed, 55% indicated that they were not comfortable with giving credit card information through social media. Most of these were over 54 years old, female, and had a household income of less than $35k. So if people are afraid of giving out their credit card information over social media (but yet still give it to play games like Farmville?), how exactly will brands manage to get things sold? ShopIgniter took a look at this and solved it. Rather, they created peace of mind. In this new platform, ShopIgniter made sure to include a key requirement for merchants who process high volumes of credit card transactions. With PCI (Payment Card Industry) Level 1 certification, ShopIgniter is one of the only social commerce platform providers authorized to meet the security needs of large retailers and brands–meaning, they have your security in mind.
Matt Compton, CEO of ShopIgniter, explains it this way:
Customers expect, and brands demand, the same level of security and confidence when buying through social channels as they do on their eCommerce stores…by adding PCI Level 1 certification to our Social Commerce Platform, we’re proud to offer brands and retailers the most complete social commerce offering on the market, with peace of mind that their transactions and data are completely secure.
So now that we’ve secured peace of mind for merchants and their customers, what else does ShopIgniter’s social commerce platform offer up? Well for one, it takes your e-commerce service and throws it right into the social media mix. Currently available for Facebook, one of the cool features of the service is their Group Gifting program. What this allows is for anyone to create a gift card at any participating retail store. Then, you can invite your friends via Facebook to chip in to add some money to the card–essentially creating a collective gift. Once that’s done, a virtual card will be sent to the recipient and they can use it at any retail store or online. Isn’t that a great gesture? I asked Kevin Tate, CMO of ShopIgniter, about whether this Group Gifting could be done for someone besides an individual? Imagine during Back to School days in late August, a non-profit organization with a Facebook profile sets up a Target gift card (powered by ShopIgniter) in order to see if the community would donate to help kids get school supplies? Wouldn’t that be a great idea on how to use Group Gifting? Mr. Tate told me that it’s a great idea and “certainly the kind of thing that our Group Buying feature can support.” I imagine that this will hold promise to some great charities and those eager to help those less fortunate. Great community work.
As for the rest of ShopIgniter’s offerings, Mr. Tate breaks it down into three top-level components: a social promotions engine that will allow users to create, manage, and measure social commerce experiences both “authentic and engaging”, a social presentation layer giving the ability to publish social commerce to Facebook (including mobile) done through HTML5-compliant themes and shared anywhere on the social web, and a foundation which involves integration with merchant’s existing e-commerce solutions, fulfillment, inventory, etc. But what e-commerce and CRM systems are currently supported? A wide range, apparently–ShopIgniter can handle working with systems like DemandWare, IBM, Oracle, etc., as well as a variety of payment, tax, and fulfillment providers. An API is even available for businesses eager to build their service using ShopIgniter.
Services besides the Group Gifting feature that merchants will get include tools to handle product launches, special offers for their VIPs, flash and private sales, seasonal and holiday collections–build a nice little community within Facebook that gets people to virtually shop, share their purchases, and talk about your great products! ShopIgniter hopes that by giving brands a “repeatable and cost-effective toolkit”, merchants will be able to take their social conversations and e-commerce programs and make them work together to increase revenue and loyalty–a double win!
Currently, there are over 40 leading brands using ShopIgniter for their social commerce experiences, including Target, Levi’s, Nike Golf, Kaenon, Steven Alan, Omaha Steaks, and CafePress.
The world of e-commerce is rapidly changing. People are becoming way more active on social networks than ever before. It will be interesting to see how in the next ten years whether the estimated $30 billion social commerce is expected to bring in skyrockets into an astronomical amount.
Are you going to buy anything online?
Photo Credit: Money by Nick Ares/Flickr