Retail Lessons For Ecommerce Sites

Retail Lessons For Ecommerce Sites

August 26, 2012 by Jim Stoneham

Jim Stoneham is CEO of Payvment, developer of the top Facebook ecommerce platform for brands, agencies, and merchants. Follow the company @Payvment.

The traditional ecommerce experience normally entails searching on Google or Amazon for the product you want, and then scanning for the cheapest deal. Or maybe it means visiting a retailer’s website and trolling through 575 pairs of shoes to find something that suits your style. But rarely does buying online feel like the enjoyable real-world experience of “going shopping.”

By contrast, meeting up at the mall or wandering a busy shopping district with a friend is an inherently social experience. You never know what cool stuff you’ll stumble across, and those moments are what make going shopping so much fun. These fun aspects are actually transferable to the online world. Here are the five to focus on.

1. Let People Emote

Retail therapy is all about discovering products that get us excited and provoke reactions and conversation with our friends. While many brands have added “want” buttons to product listings, several months of data generally show that a “want” post performs poorly at driving follow-up reactions in the social stream. This is likely because “wanting” something is typically tied to a more considered purchase process.

The key is to enable people to emote the same way they do during the physical shopping experience, and let them share their reactions with others quickly and easily.

For example, providing tools to emote is at the core of The Huffington Post’s social features. Next to most articles you can click on buttons that say “amazing”, or “weird”, or “important”. This range drives a more interesting social post and follow-up comments.

2. Showcase What’s Hot

If you make it easy for people to express their views on products, you’ll also know what’s “hot” in your inventory and can give these products more prominence within your shopping experience. By featuring these trending items, you drive impulse purchases by even casual visitors. This creates a self-reinforcing viral loop, which can give products broad exposure to new potential customers.

For example, social curation site Wanelo showcases products from across the web that are “saved” the most by its users. More “saves” by users give a product a higher placement on the home page, letting people know what’s hot among Wanelo users.

3. Ditch the Cart

Pushing a cart around is a drag in the real world and online. Since social commerce product discovery often comes from within a social stream, it is all about spontaneous, one-off buys, not shopping from a pre-defined list. Enable your shoppers to immediately buy with one click rather than filling up a cart they have to manage and can more easily abandon.

It’s all about taking friction out of the system so impulses can result in instant sales. The iTunes store has shown the clear value of this one-click, cart-free approach.

4. Lead with Mobile

Social discovery is driven from the social stream, and that stream is increasingly being consumed on mobile devices. As of a few months ago, people spend more time using Facebook on their mobile devices than on their PCs, and Twitter users spend six times more time using Twitter mobile than

This has major implications for the shopping experience. Mobile behavior is a lot different from desktop behavior. With mobile, people prefer snippets of browsing versus longer periods of time when they sit in front of a screen. Make sure your mobile ecommerce experience is bite-sized enough to make spontaneous discovery fun and easy.

Social commerce vendors can take a page from Amazon’s mobile shopping flow, which is a great example of this approach in action. The mobile web experience and the mobile app offer simpler versions of the full site that enable shoppers to easily get in and get out.

5. Use Data to Fuel Discovery

The online ad industry long ago mastered the art of behavioral targeting: using data about what people do online to infer what their interests are and serve them more relevant ads.

The same thing is now possible with social commerce as people share opinions about your products. The more people interact, the more information you’ll have about what they, and people like them, are interested in. Use this data to put the right products in front of the right people to boost discovery and sales. It’s important to note that this interest or taste-based clustering and targeting reaches beyond the social graph and can be much more effective at driving results. It also makes the shopping experience less of a chore and more fun, since only the products you really like are served up to you.

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