Infographic: The Future of Social Commerce

By Devon Glenn 

The future of social commerce is not in traffic referrals from Facebook, Twitter, or even Pinterest, but in socially enabled e-commerce sites like Fab, say researchers at 8th Bridge. In the 2012 Social Commerce IQ Retail report, released today, research showed that the most successful internet retailers combine branding on social networks with social functionality within their own websites.

The infographic below summarizes the highlights of the report, which contains insights gleaned from 475 companies.

First, the bad news: while 78 percent of the top 500 internet retailers have adopted Pinterest in the last year, the virtual pinboard did not create a corresponding rise in traffic or conversions. In fact, Facebook drives 20 times more traffic to retail sites than Pinterest.

Now, the good news: the true value of Pinterest is in its Interest Graph, which connects users to each other by what they like rather than by their relationships. Brands can learn a great deal about their customers from the way they arrange their pins on their boards, like which pieces of apparel go together.

Sharing on Facebook, in contrast, “is at the brand level,” said 8thBridge chief product officer Jon Kubo. People “like” Burberry, not a particular scarf. “There’s not much product sharing,” he noted.

Toward that end, Facebook recently rolled out Collections – a Pinterest-style board for brand pages. Kubo said although Collections let brands highlight their own products and build Sponsored Stories around them, they did not engage the customers in the same way that Pinterest did.

The brands that successfully use Facebook take advantage of its Custom Open Graph, which creates unique expressions for customers to share directly from a brand website to Facebook. Fab customers, for example, log in through Facebook to “Fave” the products they like on and share them on their walls. Fab can then collect social data from these expressions because there’s an app behind them. Pinterest and Spotify have also found success with this tool.

Said Kubo, “Intelligence, both off-site and on-site, will be the foundation for personalization.”

Fab is the first of three main types of successful sites that 8thBridge has identified: those that are socially integrated, those that are in transition, and those have a strong viral following through branding on other social networks.

Women’s clothing site Nasty Gal is a transitional company that integrates with Facebook’s Custom Open Graph with “gimme,” “neeeed,” and “<3 <3 <3″ buttons. They also have a strong following on Facebook, with more than half a million likes.

An example of a strong viral company is PetFlow posts hourly on Facebook, which is normally the kiss of death for businesses whose frustrated followers end up “unliking” them or hiding their status updates from their feeds. It works for the pet food delivery service, said Kubo, because pet owners are a passionate community and because the company posts pictures of pets, which are popular on Facebook, anyway.

See other stats, including the results of a customer survey, in the infographic below.