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Early attempts at social commerce are commendable but the missing link in innovation is a human element.
Social media is an exciting opportunity for retailers because it’s the closest way of replicating an in-store experience online both for customer service and for the recommendation and leisure aspects of shopping with real friends.
So far some brands have made good first attempts at this. For example, Best Buy’s Twelpforce replicates a customer service team in real time online. ASOS and French Connection are examples of early social or Facebook shops that are pleasureable and easy to use. However, for both aspects – leisure and customer service – even these are far from realising the true potential of social commerce.
Ironically it takes some clever technology to reveal just how human online shopping can be. This week, mobile operator 3 in Sweden and digital production agency B-Reel launched 3LiveShop, which uses specially created computers to put live sales people online to take users through different models in a very visual, tactile way.
This investment in technology and innovation is a luxury not afforded many brands, but it makes sense for a retailer such as 3, whose customers undertake a considerable amount of research before a purchase. Taking the customer service to a more human level online is bound to set a big-ticket retailer ahead of its competition.
In terms of the more social leisure aspect, there are few online shops that take the format above and beyond just allowing people to shop on a social network. If we can now watch The X Factor or The Only Way Is Essex together online and comment and discuss what’s going on live, why cant I take my friends shopping? If I need to buy something for my house with my flatmates, why can’t we all do it together online in our lunch break?
Over a year ago, Dell’s global VP of online Manish Mehta told new media age that the company wanted to take the social aspects of high street shopping and recreate them online by letting people interact and have discussions in real time when buying products from Dell’s website (nma 25 March 2010). This is exactly what brands should be aiming for but it’s suprising that while there’s recognition of the potential, no one has yet launched anything near these ambitions.
The opportunities for human interaction are huge and the consumer is ready. It’s time for brands to start taking risks and push the potential of social commerce.