Social Commerce: a new way to buy online


As the Paris Social Media Week drew to a close, Social Media Club France organized a conference to address the growing impact of social commerce and some of the new developments in the field. Let’s take a look:

The many faces of social commerce

Julien Chaumond ( began the conference by asking the fundamental question: what is social commerce? A simple answer would be that it is a type of trade conducted predominantly through social media. However, the reality of social commerce is much more complex than that. It entails a multitude of approaches, each dealing with a different range of products and functionalities.

To illustrate the diversity of ideas and the spirit of innovation that characterize social commerce, Chaumond identified a few of the key players in the field. First up, Groupon. An immensely successful deal-of-the-day website, it generates hundreds of sales daily. Another major player, Blippy, allows users to share their knowledge by posting product reviews in a format that largely resembles a Twitter feed. Meanwhile, Etsy, much like eBay, functions as a marketplace, but specializes in handmade and vintage products.

In addition, some of the smaller start-up companies also provide interesting models for conducting social commerce. Polyvore, for instance, invites users to assemble sets of items, for example creating a perfect weekend outfit. This « collage » can then be viewed by others, who can comment on it or simply buy one or more of the items they see (Polyvore conveniently connects you to the websites where each piece can be purchased).

It is impossible to list all the different ideas that comprise the world of social commerce, but the few that we cited here illustrate just how diverse the field has become. Now, to explore some of the social commerce sites in more detail, let’s turn to our speakers:

Boosket (Josué Solis)

Taking full advantage of the powerful force that is Facebook, Boosket offers e-merchants the tools to sell their product through the social network. Josué Solis, who represented the brand at the conference, noted the power of fan pages, which allow users to become ambassadors of the brand, thereby increasing sales and helping engage the target market.

However, navigating the world of f-commerce (Facebook commerce) can be tricky. Brands need to not only prioritize the product they are selling, but also offer users the interaction they expect from a social networking site. Because the responsibility of engaging with the brand now lies with the customer, a greater emphasis needs to be placed on the content of the fan page. It must be original and engaging, and not a simple replica of the brand’s website.

Finally, it is equally important to keep all user interactions on an opt-in basis. Founders of Beacon, a system that automatically posted information on user’s walls without their permission, learned the lesson the hard way when they were forced to shut down in 2009.

All in all, selling though Facebook can often be challenging, but Boosket is prepared to offer brands the necessary tools to create their own Facebook store, where the content is customized and the number of clicks is reduced to make buying easier.

>> You can view Josué Solis’ presentation here.

Groupon (Damien Roué)

Some are hesitant to categorize Groupon, a deal-of-the-day website, as a social commerce site, saying that there is nothing “social” about the interaction that it offers its users. However, with daily sales ranging from 500 to 1000, it is hard to dispute that Groupon succeeds in uniting a large number of customers in responding to its promotions.

Despite its success, the speaker for Groupon, Damien Roué concedes that the benefits generated through f-commerce are less than those generated by the more traditional e-mail lists. The advantages of Facebook, however, lie in its ability to engage the target market, thus generating more sales from a smaller group of people.

>> You can view Damien Roué’s presentation here.

Vente-Amis (Stanislas Goupil)

Vente-Amis relies on the trust and security offered by a social network to facilitate sales between friends. Instead of a more traditional business-to-consumer model, the site promotes consumer-to-consumer sales. It is essentially a platform for social and commercial interaction between friends. Emphasizing interpersonal relations and the ability to reach target consumers with greater ease, Vente-Amis functions like a social network, creating a comfortable environment that promotes commerce.

>> You can view Stanislas Goupil’s presentation here.

You can also view the videos from the conference and this blog post in French.

In addition, you can read a report from our last conference on social gaming here.