Social Commerce - Does it Work for Us?

by BonjourPoupette

Etsy is on the social commerce bandwagon big time. In theory, this should help the buyer who wants fine art and indie artisan work to find what they are looking for, by following the tastemakers of their choice in Etsy’s circles and activity feeds. Although it is too early to tell if Etsy’s move is visionary or vastly stupid, it is not too early to form an opinion and duke it out in Etsy’s forums!

I decided to do a bit of research on how social shopping is doing in general. here’s what I've found.

1) Social commerce works by allowing shoppers access to advice and recommendations from past buyers. Etsy’s feedback system is quite effective in this regard. I’m less convinced that following a person’s favorites or treasury lists is as effective.

2) Although 72% of retailers plan to spend more on social media marketing, less than 2% of orders among the retailers surveyed were the result of shoppers coming from a social network, according to  The Purchase Path of Online Buyers report 2010, Forrester Research and GSI Commerce.

What does this tell us? That 98% of buyers are making up their own minds about what to buy, independent of what is posted on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. Maybe this is because we don’t essentially rely on what is posted on the internet. Or maybe this this trend is still new and will grow in time.

3) The big winners so far in the social shopping arena are Groupon and Facebook. Both of these depend largely on sharing info about “deals” and discounts. This isn’t useful for art or artisan work.

4) The upside of social shopping is that it is engaging. People may stay on Etsy’s site longer in order to channel surf through all the various links to circles and favorites. Unfortunately this is all  about as random as browsing new listings. Until our potential buyers are shown concentrated lists of the high quality artisan works that interest them, I’m not convinced that social shopping on Etsy is effective for us.

What do you think? Is social commerce working for you, as a buyer or seller? I’d love to know about your experience!

editorial by Lee Wolfe


PoleStar Jewelry - Handcrafted said...

If Etsy is social commerce, then so far it works for me! Though I don't see much social about it, since it still seems to be mostly about products.

WolfeWoman said...

Good point, Jen!
The term social commerce refers to a set of online collaborative shopping tools such as shared pick lists, user ratings and other user-generated content-sharing of online product information and advice.

So it doesn't mean chatting or networking.

My sales are great, personally, but I don't know if the new social commerce tools (circles, activity feed) are responsible or not.

colette said...

great article!

i find that i wander in etsyland quite a bit more with the activity feed. i'm like a crow...look at that shiny pretty thing for a moment then on to the next shiny pretty thing... i have made a few purchases from these meanderings though.

i don't use any of the links like the 'see who favorites this item' all of my ventures are via the images that happen to surface.

i don't know if the social changes have influenced my sales. i'm curious to see where this is all headed.

thanks for offering food for thought! - colette

Sofie said...

I think that Etsy's social commerce system is a clever strategy in the face of the abyss of merchandise available. I don't consider it anything more than a spectrum of ways to get exposed to items and shops that might interest you.

I don't agree that the Activity Feeds are as random as browsing New Listings, so long as the people in your Circle aren't selected randomly. (I challenge anyone to pull together a beautiful Treasury in record time based solely on New Listings or the Search function! Gah!)

It seems to me that the increased exposure has a cumulative but not a direct effect. Hearts and Treasury features do not necessarily equal sales, but they almost always result in more exposure (and more Hearts and Treasury features... et cetera). More exposure certainly increases your chances of being found by a potential customer.

Personally, my sales have only continued to increase since the advent of the Activity Feed. I do very little promotion of my shop outside of Etsy. I have noticed how individual items go viral on my Activity Feed after being Favorited - leading to more Hearts and more Treasuries and ultimately sales.

ira said...

As a social commerce? It doesn't work for me yet, because I still kind of lost methink. but I did get tons of new hearts and I don't know if I start play the game rightly maybe it will work for me too. But I really not into it if I can be honest to you, I don't like FB, even thought I have an account there. This circle feel like FB too now.

gretchenmist . . . {belinda} said...

i find it really hard to tell if it's helping or not!
it feels better in a way to be able to have a visual of the activity.
lots of connections to other sellers happening but no idea about the buyer/sales side of it.
thanks Lee :)

Waterrose said...

I don't think that Social Media/commerce is a path to a direct purchase. My belief is that similar to the advent of commercials on TV. People didn't immediately go out and purchase what they saw on TV, the commercial created a mental note that it might be something they wanted to check out further, or think about buying. They may have not even known the product existed prior to that commercial. It may have even lead to the person telling another person what they saw in a commercial. Then that person making a purchase.

It's advertising, pure and simple. If you don't put yourself out there, then it's harder to be found. The purchase may come months later. Just like advertising in print a person will put the ad/postcard in a file and make a purchase months later. Now we can bookmark an item that appeals to us for later purchase.

I only think of it as advertising and if someone visits and buys right after seeing something of mine from social media, then that is a bonus.

I do believe that Etsy is doing the right thing in providing many different ways to be seen in activity feeds, circles, front page, etc. Otherwise, how would we be found?

Eve's Little Earthlings said...

I personally enjoy looking at the items from my activity feed. It is all that I actually look at now except when building treasuries.
My sales have been growing steadily this year and I don't know if that is due to the new etsy format or just that I have been around for a while now. It is a lot like window shopping. I find myself looking at treasuries LESS now.

steinschmuckdesign said...

I also see it as a advertising system and not so much social, maybe just a bit personal, but also not so much. I think a importend point is still how a side looks, I mean the graphic, the Photos and so on. For example, if a blog or a webside looks interesting in there graphic style, it chatches Peoples Eyes at the first second and they might stay on the side to check it :)

Linda said...

Thanks for digging up the stats for us - quite amazing and I wasn't thinking that only 2% of orders would be coming from a social network - perhaps a good point to start replanning in what to invest time and energy.
On the other hand when it comes to etsy I prefer to surf through the links (especially favorites) - I've never really found worthwhile stuff while browsing new listings... in the end I always buy from some shop that I've found through other shops/sellers that I already admire or have pruchased from - so this should probably not be underestimated!
Linda / PaperPhine