Rise of Social Commerce conference

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It’s been a whirlwind few days for me since I arrived in the US.  First to New York to meet up with a business associate and then off to dinner with Darryl and Mary Jo, then off to San Francisco to the Rise of Social Commerce conference organised by Altimeter.

I was surprised that there were only a couple of us who had flown over from Europe to the conference.  Was it the cost of the conference, the costs to get there, or was it the fact that the US is leading the social commerce activities – being trailblazers?  Anyway, I’m glad I came over here…

With 86% of companies being ready for a social commerce strategy and wanting to have a great engagement with the channel it was interesting to hear that most companies are still not willing to release control and empower the customer. After all, it’s easy to buy online – after all that’s just a transactional purchase – but its much harder to shop online.  Very valid points, but a really hard thing to solve.

Relinquishing control – I hear this sort of challenge a lot.  When I talk to clients, they are fixated on the customers experience, but don’t want to free the customer in case it can’t be measured with hard and formal metrics.  Either that, or they are so paranoid, that they block everything from the customer, or hade behind firewalls.  In order to get a really good experience, companies need to redesign the buying experience for the shopper – to turn a buying transaction into a shopping experience.  I was impressed by the leadership shown by Kiddicare in the UK who use customer reviews and tags to define and refine searches for all customers who look for products on the site.  Then, the community decides how products are tagged and categorised.  It’s  such a simple idea, and it’s brilliant – and it extends the shopping experience for all purchasers.

Other challenges for brands are – how do they stand out?  How do brand builders navigate the ‘sea of sameness’ to get their differentiator and justify brand loyalty for the company – and additionally, do they have the ability to step back from their traditional social media marketing approach to work out whether it actually adds value to the end consumer or not. 

I was particularly impressed by one of the sessions.  Manish Mehta from Dell talked about the fact we’re at an inflection point in social commerce and likened it to building a car back in the early 1900s.  Back then, there were no roads, no infrastructure, no governance, no rules.  All of these had to be built.  The same is true of social media and social commerce.  All of these ground rules, infrastructure and network, needs to be built.  Unless companies give up control and allow democratisation, then the experience for the consumer – the customer – will be poorer for it, and the industry might not evolve like the car industry infrastructure did.  A thought provoking session 

Other sessions focused on the voice of the consumer.  Their voice is needed to reflect positively on your brand, to get people passionate about your brand and amplify your message.  That’s a very compelling theme indeed.  In fact, every session I attended was compelling, and presented by people who had been involved in social commerce and social media from its inception.  It was interesting too to hear Manny Anekal from Zynga talk about LinkedIn being a game – with a progress bar and tasks to get completion of your profile – it is

All in all, it was an amazing conference with some thought leaders sharing their view of how our purchasing experience is changing and we’re going to have to change too so that we can stay agile and ahead of our competitors as social commerce moves to a more complete experience for the consumer.  Without that experience, shoppers will move elsewhere – to companies that give them the more flexible experience.  All in all – it was a great conference – I’m really glad I attended it… Smile 

After all – the future of the shopping experience is in the palm of your hand.  Imagine the commerce opportunity do deliver a great experience to everyone with a mobile phone… I’m certainly looking forward to that one…

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