Practicology is now Pattern

By Joanna Perry | Head of Marketing

Social commerce has been much hyped, but there are some retailers and brands successfully mixing social media with ecommerce.

My biggest disappointment with ecommerce has always been that it’s such a, well, lonely experience. In the last 15 years there have been significant enhancements across the board – from usability and site design, to ultra-convenient delivery and returns options, to the fact that ecommerce has shifted borders and is now multichannel. But it’s never quite overcome the fact that any shopper journey into an online store involves one person hunched over a screen.

We’re no strangers to ratings & reviews, which are arguably a hygiene factor in ecommerce functionality. But largely thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest a new frontier of social data is available to help us retailers surface the fact that other shoppers lie beneath the storefront.

And it’s not just other shoppers. It’s other shoppers like you.  Maybe it’s people you know, and whose taste you admire or opinions you trust. This all makes for powerful persuasion selling. Social commerce includes:

Social Proof: demonstrating to the user how many other people have visited/ liked/ wanted/ bought from this site

Social Sharing: allowing users to publish their product likes and wants to their community of friends on social networks

Crowdsourcing: harnessing the collective opinion of the shopper community to influence the product range and direction

Injecting a social layer into an ecommerce store makes it easier for a shopper to research, browse or buy. And less lonely, of course. Here are five of the best examples of social commerce you can see today.

Ratings & Reviews on

The recently rebranded Appliances Online is a Practicology favourite when it comes to social commerce best practice. As a department store for white goods, it is well placed to publish transparent and comprehensive user reviews on all its products, planting itself firmly on the side of the customer in the process.

How it works

The influence of reviews on a user’s decision to purchase is well documented, and it’s refreshing to see acknowledge this by making ‘Reviews’ the default tab on the product details page.

The reviews content displays:

  • A total star rating as well as a rating broken down by specific attribute
  • Detailed pros and cons
  • The option to rate a review, and push it to a more prominent position in the list
  • Helpful sort options

It has also implemented BazaarVoice’s Question & Answer functionality to ‘crowdsource’ answers to those questions users have that just can’t be predicted.

What more could you want to make an informed decision?


Social commerce – five great examples

Ask a Facebook Friend on Fashion ID

Fashion.ID is the ecommerce store for Peek & Cloppenburg KG, a leading department store in Germany. It has implemented a Facebook widget that allows me to get my friends’ opinions on items I am looking at online.


Social commerce – five great examples

How it works

On the Product Details Page a link invites me to ‘Ask a Friend’ (“Freunde Fragen”) about a product.  This connects me to my Facebook account, and the Facebook chat stream appears in a panel on the right-hand side, showing me which of my nearest and dearest is online at that moment. From that point, all I have to do is select which friend I want to talk to, drag the product over to the panel and chat away about the item in question.

There’s something delightfully immediate about this. More than any other social commerce feature I’ve seen it really breaks through the solitary nature of online shopping, and replicates the real-world experience of shopping with friends. The only drawback is that this is really about immediacy – your best friend/ sister/ mother has to be online when you connect to Facebook for this to deliver.

ModCloth’s Virtual Fashion Buyer

Modcloth has passed the $100 million mark, only 10 years since the site was founded, largely driven by putting social commerce features at the core of the brand.

In the past 12 months it rolled out a Virtual Buyer programme allowing users to vote samples into production. This gives the community a real sense of influence over the range; and provides the company with valuable, instant feedback on whether their samples are likely to sell or not.

How it works

In the ‘Be the Buyer’ section of the site, users cycle through a selection of samples that have been put to the community vote, with options to ‘Pick’ or ‘Skip.’ User feedback is also encouraged, with good and bad comments about each sample displayed in equal measure. This allows the community (and, of course, the business) to see what changes would make the sample more desirable to the fashion-loving audience.

There are also tabs where users can see the results of recent votes that are have now been put into production (with clear ‘notify me when available’ buttons), as well as what items that have been ‘voted by you’ are now available for sale.


Social commerce – five great examples

Twitter product cards at Harveys Furniture

Social sharing buttons on a product details page are pretty standard fare on ecommerce sites now, but not too many retailers are thinking about optimising that ‘share’ experience for user journeys that start within a social network.

Harveys Furniture has gone one (simple) step further than most by implementing Twitter’s product cards into its source code, meaning that any share via Twitter displays the product name, image, price, rating and short description into the tweet.

Social commerce – five great examples

Social commerce – five great examples

Nordstrom takes social commerce in store


Social commerce – five great examples

US department store Nordstrom has been testing how to use its social data to enhance the in store experience, by adding a Pinterest swing ticket to products that have been most-pinned online.

This social commerce example is truly elegant multichannel marketing, and to my mind is the in-store equivalent of a ‘Most Popular’ or ‘Trending’ list on an ecommerce site.

The trial started in March 2013 in Nordstrom’s Seattle store and has since extended to more stores. Nordstrom’s social media manager was quoted as saying  "A cool aspect of Pinterest is that popular items are totally democratic. It really runs the gamut in terms of interesting and surprising things."

The hottest categories are women's shoes, dresses, and handbags. One of Nordstrom's most popular items ever was a women's swimsuit.

Social login is the gateway to rich, personalised experiences

The Facebook social login is an increasingly common feature on ecommerce websites. In exchange for the convenience of a 1-click login, retailers get access to the richness of community data in the underlying social graph.

Amazon’s link up with Facebook which was first beta tested in the US in 2010, gives us a glimpse of the future.

Users are invited to link their Amazon account to their Facebook account, meaning recommendations are no longer solely driven by what the community as a whole is doing (people who looked at that also looked at this), but by what your community is doing.

Amazon users will be able to recognise product reviews that have been written by their Facebook friends, or whether any friends have wished for an item they are looking at.


Social commerce – five great examples

Of course there are privacy concerns to overcome,but the outcome is a rather exciting mashup of some of some of the most popular buzzwords of today - “social commerce” and “personalisation”. This shows that we’re only just beginning to scrape the surface of what social data can do for ecommerce.


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