Social Commerce. How effective is it?

March 4, 2013
People reading

Author: Vanessa Krumb, Vice President of Strategy

The Adobe Digital Index shows social media driving only two percent of ecommerce website referral traffic, with small year over year growth. If social media is driving such a small portion of ecommerce website referrals and purchases, why is there so much buzz around social commerce? Is it just hype?

Traffic Source YoY


Social media marketing has evolved from building communities on the social networks to also threading these communities throughout the digital landscape. Savvy commerce websites are now making “invite your friends” as prominent a call-to-action as “buy now.” They’re tapping in to people’s communities to generate a cycle of awareness and conversion. The ones who are doing this right are communicating and delivering genuine value-add shopping features, which can only be experienced by shoppers who grant that website access to their social network.

Have you noticed how your friends are following you around the Web? Think about it – you go to Facebook to see what your friends are talking about, and then you go browsing around on or Pinterest, and there they are! And isn’t it interesting to see what content your friends like on these sites? It’s a little hard to ignore actually.

The social shopping experience seems valuable from the user perspective, but what are ecommerce websites getting out of it? Is it worth the effort?

The answer is yes. Social commerce is fueling high growth ecommerce websites. Whenever there is a new channel available to digital marketers, you’ll see the early adopters grow very quickly. They aren’t focusing on trying to carve out a prominent niche in more established channels, like search, where the competition has a head start and solid footing. Instead, they place a high degree of attention on dominating that new channel. This time, it’s social media.

Social commerce is a multi-faceted jewel of a strategy, poised to disrupt the ecommerce landscape. There are many startups developing template solutions, which will help the masses to address this opportunity. However, as with any channel, there isn’t a one size fits all plug-in, and the most effective solution will be crafted through a genuinely integrated experience.

When we’re looking at the stats, the volume and share of referring traffic from social properties is certainly a great signal as to how much social media is contributing to revenue. Often times we’ll see a higher share of social referrals for websites that are socially savvy – and we should expect that. However, social commerce is about more than just pulling traffic from social networks. It’s about engaging and converting visitors by embedding that network into the site itself.

Here are a few of my favorite social commerce examples:

Fab shot into ecommerce stardom, acquiring over 4 million members and driving $300,000 in daily revenue, within one year of launch. (Source: Business Insider)

fab feed

Using Facebook Connect, Fab delivers their members a feed of “inspiration” from their friends, which includes Fab purchases. Shoppers have a multitude of ways to indicate their interest in a product viewed on Fab, and when they show that interest, it spreads across their Facebook network and on the Fab Feed.
Recently acquired by AOL

This website presents a noteworthy challenge to established publishers, such as CNET. Consumers who are looking for advice on tech purchases have an awesome resource in; a community for sharing product reviews and advice.

gdgt iphone

The site adds real value to the tech shopping experience through a brilliant mashup of Facebook, Amazon and Pricegrabber, as well as shopper-centric features like price trending and new product version alerts. This socially driven site excels at connecting the audience to the end purchase. Not only can people discover products according to popularity and relationships, but they can directly purchase from the site. Compare this to sites, like Pinterest or Houzz, where it isn’t always obvious where you can purchase the item you see on the site.

gdgt also provides considerate and useful review features. People can weigh expert opinions against those of regular folks, all in the context of actual product features – and reviewer reputation.
gdgt user reviewsgdgt user reviews

Joss & Main

Nearly overnight, Joss & Main went from driving about 40 thousand unique monthly visitors to over one million per month. Most websites in their category receive about two percent of referrals from social media, but over 12% of Joss & Main’s traffic comes from social media. (Source: Compete)


The Joss & Main website aggressively targets referrals. Before a person even browses the site, they are prompted to join and refer friends for spending money on the site. Throughout the site, there are banners and links prompting referrals with the same offer.


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