Dec 5, 2009

Definitions of Social Commerce: From Customers to Friends…?

Like many industries starting off, social commerce lacks a clear definition. There are many different terms that exist used to define this concept as Paul Marsden illustrates in his blog SocialCommerceToday.

Between 2005 and 2007 he collected 17 definitions and had the excellent idea of copying them all down in Wordle in order to see the many terms linked to this industry.  Here is the result:

In doing this, Paul Marsden was able to come up with his own definition (18):
“Social commerce: A subset of electronic commerce that employs collaborative social media tools to assist in online purchasing and selling”.

Definitions definitely vary depending on whether one is a retailer or a “shopper”; or whether or not the application point is an individual consumer or a friend in a social network.

By mapping these points of view on symmetrical axes we get a graph of 18 terms, now 19 including the one that I propose for SherPad, which emphasizes the word of mouth strategy, conversations between friends, and social networks.

(19)“Social Commerce rises through trusted advice in conversations and word-of-mouth among your friends and relations in social networks, blogs, and communities, helping to make shopping decisions and transactions”.

For each definition, the four most relevant key words were kept.  There is a certain tendency to see the most recent definitions show at the top, combine the issue of social networks, links between friends, and favor the “shopper’s” point of view.

However, this is not irreversible, as the definitions of IBM and Paul Marsden, which are situated in the lower part, state:

IBM: “Social commerce:  Connect and foster active participation with customers to help improve your customer experience…including ratings and reviews, blogs and micro-blogging, as well as forums and communities”.

There is a difference, or maybe even an opposition, between the definition given by Bazaarvoice, the societal leader in consumer review, and the one of Paul Dunay.

“Social commerce: Strategy of connecting customers to customers online and leveraging those connections for commercial purpose”.

Paul Dunay:
“Social commerce: Working with or using your social graph, which is defined as your followers or your friends, and allowing them to help you make buying decisions”.

Will social commerce continue to develop along these two different points of view or will they merge together?

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