Why Social Commerce Isn’t Exploding Yet

So should you venture into the world of social commerce or shouldn't you?

Shoppers and sellers alike are increasingly wondering whether they should jump aboard the social commerce bandwagon and why they’re struggling to figure out just how to do so.

This is no surprise. Whether you’re a shopper or a seller, there are real reasons for the strangely hidden nature of social commerce at the moment, and these reasons may help you to decide whether social commerce is right for you. Here are some of them:

Shop and sell sensibly and patiently, just as you always do

So should you venture into the world of social commerce or shouldn’t you?

If you’re a shopper, the answer to this question is an easy one. If you’re satisfied with your current e-commerce experience, with whatever percentage of social commerce that includes (and by whatever definition of social commerce you’re using), you have little to gain and multiple things to lose right now by consciously deciding to try social commerce out.

The best advice is probably just to follow your nose—if you happen to wind up face-to-face with a Facebook Marketplace product that you’d like to buy or a crate club that you’d like to join, great—weigh the pros and cons, make a decision and be prepared for a few hiccups. If you find a site that’s integrated with Facebook in some way but that offers goods you can’t live without, then by all means, shop away.

But there’s certainly no reason at the moment to go out looking specifically for social commerce just to be part of the in club. If you’re a deal hawk looking for the best prices or interesting products, you’ll probably find them on your own without trying to target social commerce platforms specifically. Let your purchasing habits, your common sense and your wallet lead you to the right choices.

If you’re a seller, the answer to this question is slightly—but not much—more complicated.

First off, how’s your regular e-commerce business doing? If there are fundamentals you’re still working on, then focus on those first. Yes, social commerce may represent some number of new shoppers, but the market today is a limited one (although competition is also limited at the moment). Social commerce methods (sharing on social networks, using social media logins to help you to know your shoppers better and so on) are a far better bet, but evaluate these moves on the merits, rather than out of a misguided desire to “adopt social commerce” as a platform or strategy.

Do what you would normally do—focus on satisfying your customers and growing your business effectively—and the rest will take care of itself, including any social commerce practices that you may decide to adopt.

Social commerce isn’t there yet

Although the points above might make it sound as though social commerce is a bust, the truth is more nuanced than that.

As was the case with e-commerce 20 years ago, social commerce is in its infancy. What social commerce is today is likely not what it will be tomorrow. There will be a lot of opportunity in social commerce for some sellers, and there’s a big, bright social commerce future ahead for many consumers—but it’s also true that social commerce just isn’t there yet.

How will you know when it’s time to jump on the social commerce bandwagon?

By some definitions, you might already be there and just not know it. And by any definition, if you focus more on what you’re doing (shopping or selling) and less on whether you’ve seized on the latest technology trend, the rest will take care of itself.

Kevin North is CEO of e-commerce analytics provider Terapeak.

Image courtesy of Rawpixelimages/Dreamstime.