with Allison Smith, Xiaofeng Wang and Vanessa Zeng
Chinese social platforms have started to engage in commerce via partnerships with eCommerce marketplaces, but online sales conversion rates from social traffic have been disappointing. For example, in May, 360buy (JD.com) — the second-largest B2C eCommerce marketplace — received a level-one access point on WeChat, the hottest social platform in China, but this didn’t deliver the large quantity of fulfilled mobile orders that the company expected. Haoyu Shen, CEO of JD.com, confirmed during the company’s Q3 financial earnings call that the majority of fulfilled mobile orders still originate from JD.com’s own mobile app. Forrester sees two major inhibitors of social commerce in China:
People don’t expect to see commercial promotions of products they don’t want on social media. Consumers normally blacklist friends or public accounts that push these ads, making it difficult to implement traditional B2C or C2C eCommerce models on social platforms. However, if social marketplaces can provide people a tool in those moments in which they actually want to buy a certain product, it may enable social commerce.
Customers have poor discovery and buying experiences on social commerce platforms. Social platforms in China that sell products and services online have limited search functionality, which does not make for a user-friendly customer discovery stage. Chinese consumers have gotten used to being able to compare many products and prices when making online purchases — but current social commerce platforms can’t support that.
Get ready for the barrage of bad speculation about Twitter and its imminent dominance of online retail. If you didn’t hear already, Twitter hired Nathan Hubbard, a former Ticketmaster exec, to figure out its commerce revenue stream. Interesting yes, but game-changing, no. Here’s why: startups tend to look for smart people first and figure out their jobs later. The mentality often goes like this: “We need to figure out what we’re going to do in X, this guy has a rock star background in it, let him build a team and see what happens.” And even if the person doesn't succeed, it's OK. They move on. These people have great resumes. That said, here are the biggest reasons for my question marks around Twitter’s success in commerce:
What works best in commerce is something Twitter already gives away for free, which is its tweets. For example, some of the most successful users of Twitter in a retail context are companies looking to liquidate inventory or send notes about limited supply of promotions, like the Dell Outlet or Groupon — all done effectively via a tweet. In many ways, a tweet is like an email title — it draws people into a click with a few sexy words. The challenge is that tweets have the same problem as emails: they don’t make their technology parents any money because everyone gets to use the tools for free.
Here at Forrester we have been talking about the concept of "agile commerce" for some time now, but it's not always easy to point to live examples of “agile”businesses. What is agile commerce? How do I become agile? Both are very valid questions that we are in the process of building out a series of research documents and case studies in order to answer.
But there is a live example happening right now that encapsulates what agile is all about for me.
For those of you who are yet to become completely addicted to Pinterest (and you will), it's basically an image sharing site that allows you to group together images from around the web into categories and pin them to a virtual pin board. It creates highly visual mood boards, wish lists, galleries, and collections of images that link back through to the original source (which is where Pinterest makes its money). And since so many Pinterest boards are all about style — fashion and home in particular — it has the potential to be a bit of a retail gold mine.
After two days of very well done presentations from the Bazaarvoice team, observers of the social space and some business leaders, I come away from the Bazaarvoice Social Summit with a few thoughts:
Generally, the big theme was that use of ratings and reviews by eBusiness pros continues to deepen and add value to overall business success. We heard from Argos, Urban Outfitters, J&J, Xerox, Adobe, Best Buy, Rubbermaid, P&G, LL Bean, 3M and Estee Lauder. All of these businesses showed how they have fully embedded the use of ratings and reviews content throughout their businesses. For example, improved product data gained from ratings and reviews content is sent to all customer touchpoints such as the call center, POS, etc., at Argos; Rubbermaid realized from review content that people don’t read packaging and found that products didn’t perform well when consumers didn’t use the product as directed, so it changed the packaging and the product collateral and thus set expectations more in line with the intended use of the product and now have highly satisfied customers. And the examples like this continued throughout the conference. Look for our coming snapshot report showing some other examples of how eBusinesses continue to mine this valuable content to drive business results.
Even though there's plenty of evidence showing the positive impact many companies are getting from leveraging a social media strategy, there are still companies rigidly refusing to develop a social media strategy. This reminds me of the early days of the Internet: there were those companies looking to embrace the Internet and develop a new kind of "e-business," and the rest, steadfastly refusing to believe the Internet would transform their business. Even as Amazon defined a new online shopping channel in retail it was amazing to see how many large retailers were slow to establish an online presence.
Back in 2000 I wrote a report urging online retailers to embrace “community” as one of three core elements of their customer strategy. Companies such as REI, which already had an online community in 2000, have learned from their experience and are surging ahead into new social media.