Social storefronts were once declared dead. Advertisers selling their wares through Facebook tabs found that they flopped and instead shut down their efforts. Now, it appears social commerce is making a comeback in a very big way.
The social battleground has been focused on TV as Twitter and Facebook go back-and-forth with each arguing that its platform is the place where social TV conversations are taking place and where the opportunity for advertisers and networks to engage TV audiences is ripest. However, the more interesting battleground may be in which platform can become the leader when it comes to commerce.
Going from Engagement to Sales
Last week, Facebook started testing a 'Buy' button that allows users to purchase a product directly through a Facebook post without ever leaving the platform on both desktop and mobile.
Then there's Twitter, which recently allowed users to add products to their Amazon carts by tweeting with a specific hashtag. It followed up on this move by acquiring CardSpring, which has the potential to allow Twitter to tie more deeply into credit cards.
Pinterest is poised to allow users to shop and purchase on the platform, which it's already starting to leverage through Promoted Pins.
The pursuit of more sales-driven offerings is not limited to social platforms. Google is building an infrastructure to deliver products to users who place orders through the search engine instead of going to Amazon to complete the purchase.
The race among Internet services to sell products themselves is on, and it seems that everyone has some skin in the game.
Impulse Buy or Bust
All of the platforms can arguably sell products, but it remains to be seen whether or not consumers want them to. Consumers have shown disinterest in purchasing products through Facebook tabs, but direct response mobile app install ads have taken off. Social commerce may have struggled in the past because it was an add-on experience. The real opportunity may be in integrating commerce into the native platform experience, and that seems to be what everyone is trying to do.
The challenge remains that people go to social networks to connect with people, not brands and not products. There may be success in sparking a user to make an impulse purchase with the right tweet with the right product at the right time, but for the majority of users, the commerce posts may be no more than noise.
Marketers will need to watch this closely because it certainly has potential, but it will require all parties from platforms to brands to walk a fine line of maintaining engagement while encouraging the sale.