Shopping goes social

We are all accustomed to going shopping with friends in the real world, but when it comes to online it has been a rather solitary experience – until now. 2010 has really been the year where Social Commerce has come of age.

With 90% of people trusting opinions and recommendations from people they know, it makes sense that social media can become a very powerful tool to help drive sales.

There was one major event in April this year that was the real catalyst to kick-starting this social media shopping revolution  in a very social way. Facebook launched the Open Graph platform which changed the way web developers could use and interact with data pulled from Facebook. It paved the way for websites to easily integrate “like” buttons and other social plugins into third party websites. Developers could finally pull in Facebook data from a customer and their friend connections, and use this data to personalize content and socialise e-commerce.

There are numerous examples of brands getting social with their online stores. Levi’s Friend Store is probably the most publicised. The website has “Like” buttons against each product. You can see what items other Facebook users have liked including your friends. As we all know, “Likes” show up in your Facebook news feed, so with this strategy Levi’s has generated a lot of  free “earned media” simply by making it easy for people to show their fondness for a particular cut or style of jean available in their online store. You also get information on upcoming friend birthdays in case you want to buy gifts.

With Tripadvisor you can see which of your friends have visited a particular destination that you are researching. It gives you the option to easily send messages to these friends to get advice and recommendations about the holiday you are planning.

This year also saw Amazon leverage Facebook to show you personalised recommendations based on your interests and activities. You can also get friends birthday reminders, and see friends Amazon Wish Lists to help make finding the perfect gift a lot easier.

eBay has launched Group Gifts which searches your friends Facebook profile for activities and interests, and then cross references this with items for sale on eBay to provide recommendations on the perfect gift. In addition to this, you can also partner with other Facebook friends to buy a shared gift together. The site provides all the tools to be able to browse items, notify other friends who want to chip in for the gift, and then provide easy payment integration with PayPal.

So far there are not a lot of stats that have been published which talk to sales lifts on sites after social tools have been integrated. Hopefully in the coming months we will start to see some real numbers behind it. Especially with many of these sites going into their first holiday season with social tools in place. In any case the examples above, and many more, are proving that social integration can improve user experience and open up new ways that people can make purchasing decisions.

What’s your favorite example of social media eCommerce at work? Post in the comments below.

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