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September 15th, 2010

Social Commerce: Balancing Shopping Habits Online and Offline

When it comes to travel and shopping, I’m compliant. I have various alerts set-up to track and follow companies on Twitter, Facebook, and email including CheapTickets, Travelocity, JetBlue, Virgin America, Groupon, LivingSocials, Goldstar, and Gilt Groupe.

I’m every company’s dream consumer: Highly probable to sign up for affordable and relevant offers, quick to share findings with my network of friends and family members and impressionable enough when treated with excellent customer service. But I can be a nightmare too: I will raise my voice and fight with an @reply on Twitter, a raging Yelp entry, or leave a scathing remark on a customer service form demanding a better product or service.

But the notion of collective buying has gone dark on me recently. I could care less if a Groupon promotion goes stale due to a lack of interest. That’s money back in my pocket.  And I refuse to blast my friends’ inboxes if I don’t feel the offer warrants such an action from my group (read: deep discounts).

Then there’s the science of personalization. More companies are architecting their program semantics to create custom deals specific to my age, gender, and interests. But that stunts the creative angle to social commerce – I do want to be offered something beyond my realm of interests.

My view on social commerce is very optimistic… I’m not worried how it has and will continue to get bigger, better, faster, stronger with mobile (including payments), real-time dashboards, and predictive modeling. However, companies should keep these points in mind:

  • Customer Service beyond 9-5: More often than not, my customer service expectations are rarely met. I once purchased movie tickets in bulk with a discount code. As I tried reserving tickets with the code, I soon discover that the company’s checkout was not designed to accept it. And their 9-5pm ET business hours didn’t help my case either. I do not operate exclusively from 9-5 and neither should e-commerce companies if they want us to embrace social commerce fully. Provide a way to answer my concerns quickly and efficiently.
  • Loyalty programs: Track my behavior and send me deals accordingly via email or DM. But I don’t have room in my wallet for another rewards card. Go mobile.
  • Privacy: Still in everyone’s mind but I believe it’s non-existent these days. And that’s just the beginning of an impending war between Congress and the online world. Case in point: U.S. Congress Representatives Bobby Rush, Rick Boucher and Cliff Stearns propose regulation around marketing data used in behavioral, or interest-based, advertising.
  • Offline: This is still an important touch-point for most, if not all, consumers. As brand messaging gets pushed down the news feed and lost in space, there’s still great value behind being “local”. Local is essentially still the point of sale, right? All other methods – mobile and web – drive to and influence the point of sale. And yes, I will gladly take the free schwag your street ambassadors are giving away. Thanks!

As commerce takes flight and new tools emerge, I think it’s important for companies to remember that reliable customer support and attractive price points are the true drivers of commerce. That’s where companies can really deliver on their value: by maintaining trust with the consumer.

Oh where was I? Back to shopping.

About the Author
Beverly Nevalga brings her tech and creative background to the Voce Connect team in her role as Client Executive. Author of many of the How-To and more technically-focused posts on the Voce Communications Blog you can follower her on Twitter @digbevmo.

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