Social Shopping – What works?

by Kate Enright

Last year saw the explosion of social commerce or “social shopping” apps and sites and we have seen a steady flow spring up in 2012. As with most game-changing ecommerce concepts, the subsequent market entrants have started with more specific segmentation and a clearer target market. The whole basis of social commerce is referrals, referrals from friends, peer groups, family members. If you have similar tastes then why not share them and take the advice of others in your social circles?


Referrals though, are an age-old tradition. People always want advice on what to buy, this is why for as far back as there have been retailers we have been dragging friends and family along to get their advice on something before purchase, technology has just made this a lot easier and much more accessible. Social networking has allowed this, like many other parts of our lives, to become a virtual experience. This is why social commerce apps allow you to share pictures, recommendations, deals and advice with your friends via their platforms. You can compare prices using barcode scanners while checking description, information and availability of the product both in-store and online, all from your mobile. These apps are incorporating the world of offline and online into a social media based solution and people are taking to it in droves.

Not all social commerce is mobile based however. With s-commerce sites springing up all over the web as well as an array of s-commerce Facebook apps, the world of social shopping is open to all, anytime, anywhere. Social Commerce sites either “stock” their own products or, more often than not, link shoppers to external stores through preference, recommendations and deal searches. Facebook Apps such as ShopIgniter allow other brands to sell products through their E-Commerce platform on Facebook, utilising the social media giant’s scope. Although social commerce apps have done well on Facebook, when companies decided to open stores on the site, they weren’t quite as successful. What is referred to as F-commerce, turned out to cost them more than they were making.

F-Commerce first began 3 years ago when 1-800-flowers set up the first Facebook virtual storefront and began selling on the site. The idea of “F-Commerce” began to take off in 2011 with many large brands taking on Facebook stores to take advantage of company fan bases. Few doubted the success of selling to Facebook fans, but those who did, slated it from the beginning. The doubters, it seems, have been proved right, when early this year a host of big names pulled out due to lack of return on investment. Gamestop, one of the largest retailers on Facebook closed its store in early 2012 saying it was “not a place to sell”.

The failure of FCommerce though, definitely does not suggest that social commerce as a whole is a bad idea. Some of the custom built sites and apps out there are hugely successful and growing in consumer base every day. Apps and Sites such as Shopcade, shopwith, Givvy, Pikaba and Buyosphere have very interesting features which give the consumer enormous power and scope to source info., costs, recommendations and more. When you think about it, social commerce is the next step in retail, it is a natural, instinctive progression for us and when it comes to shopping and will, I believe, only grow in popularity. has put together a video on the psychology behind social commerce which is definitely worth watching: