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Social e-commerce

The free availability of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, etc. has drawn millions of people from the society at large to the social media platform.

A recent study reveals that 71% of online adults use Facebook, 23% use Twitter, 28% use LinkedIn, 26% use Instagram, and 28% use Pinterest. These are figures of only a few social media platforms. Just to understand the relevance of these figures, according to Facebook's published 2014 Q4 results, this social media platform alone has a whopping 1.394 billion active monthly users. Here is a break up of where these users hail from:

USA + Canada208 million
Europe301 million
Asia Pacific449 million
Rest of the World436 million

The trends indicate that people have begun to spend more time on social media than they do watching Television. While Television still remains the most favored medium for reaching out and promoting your brand, the social media trends clearly indicate that you cannot overlook social media as the next preferred platform for reaching out to buyers. The significant difference in cost of advertising on television vis.-a-vis. cost of advertising on social media itself is an encouraging factor. Further, the technology used by social media players such as Facebook, provide for detailed statistics on who all saw your ads and what is the profile of the viewers, making your Ad campaigns more effective.

Thus social media has become an important avenue for e-Commerce players to reach out to target customers. E-commerce companies are increasingly focusing on promoting their brand with active presence in the social media space. With suitable software tools, companies are able to connect and interact with prospective customers/buyers, announce product launches & discount schemes, and also obtain buyer feedback.

The primary aim of the social media exercise should be three-fold:

  1. Establish your Brand amongst the vast social media user community.
  2. Build Trust perception for your company its products and services.
  3. Draw potential buyers to your e-commerce website.

It is a well known fact that most buyers feel rather comfortable buying from a brick-and-mortar store where they physically see the goods, interact with sales personnel and buy products off the shelf. People shy away from buying online primarily because they are not sure whether they are dealing with a genuine company or a fly-by-night player. Hence building trust is important. Brand and Trust building do not happen overnight. They take months of active presence on the social media platform, and to succeed you need to gear up and setup a dedicated team of young marketing professionals who should be 100% focused toward building your brand and establishing trust in the social media space.

E-commerce companies are taking advantage of innovative marketing methods provided by the social media players (aided by highly advanced software tools that are integrated in their social media platform) to effectively target specific profile of prospective buyers and draw them to their e-commerce website in a cost-effective manner.

Needless to mention that before you embark on your social media campaign, you must have a good e-commerce website in place and also have all associated infrastructure and logistics ready to serve. A good percentage of social media users access their social accounts via mobile and smart phones and hence e-commerce companies need to ensure that their website is compatible across various mobile devices and platforms. Developing responsive e-commerce website with ease of use and payment via mobile devices, is the need of the hour.

When prospective buyers are drawn to your e-commerce website via social media, your next focus area should be to have a website that appeals to the hearts of the buyers. The experience that a prospective buyer has at your website largely determines whether he/she will make their first purchase or not. Successful e-commerce companies such as Flipkart and Jabong, have a dedicated team in place whose job is to diligently upload & update product data and provide enough product information which are easily viewable via suitable feature wise search filters and product comparison tools. Technology allows you to further personalize product offerings and target the emotional side of the buyer giving them a more effective buying experience.

In the early days when e-commerce was relatively new, the methods of operating were different. You would build a decent looking website that would display your products, features and price. Then focus on SEO and marketing via search engines and business directories, draw out affiliate programs, give ads on local newspapers & television, and then wait for customers to come. This method is not at all effective in today's scenario. To acquire new customers through your website, you now need to rethink your entire online presence strategy. Depending upon how well you have sewed up your sales, marketing, logistics, product quality and after sale service, your efforts of customer acquisition via social media may either succeed or fail. If it succeeds the gains can be exponential. If you succeed in giving your customers a happy/delighting experience, they will not hesitate to talk about your company and products in the social media space. They will share and tweet about your products and services, and if you are lucky it can create a viral effect. Once that happens the gains can be phenomenal. While not every company succeeds in achieving this, if done well, this is possible. And the mere fact that this is possible and results can by unimaginably phenomenal, you simply cannot ignore the social media space. No matter what the end result, you must focus on this paradigm will full commitment.

With proper software tools in place, and a few months of focused activity you can succeed in building an email database of several thousand buyers and prospective. If you do it in the right manner, it will not take much time to build a substantially large database of a few hundred thousand prospective buyers to whom you can market in a more personalized and effective manner using a good CRM software. I can assure you this exercise will result in a few million dollars of increase in your sales revenue. Off course, you must ensure to take it forward with good delivery logistics in place and after sale service to continue to delight your customers. Trust me, this can lead to greater customer retention and a substantial jump in your market share which will stay for long.

Good Luck on your social e-commerce endeavor!

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About the Author
Rajeev Kumar
CEO, Computer Solutions
Jamshedpur, India

Rajeev Kumar is the primary author of How2Lab. He is a B.Tech. from IIT Kanpur with several years of experience in IT education and Software development. He has taught a wide spectrum of people including fresh young talents, students of premier engineering colleges & management institutes, and IT professionals.

Rajeev has founded Computer Solutions & Web Services Worldwide. He has hands-on experience of building variety of websites and business applications, that include - SaaS based erp & e-commerce systems, and cloud deployed operations management software for health-care, manufacturing and other industries.

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