Litmus7’s “Social-First Commerce” Manifesto

By Somak Roy July 16, 2019

To say social media is ubiquitous would be a wild understatement. Over 40% of the global population regularly receive updates on the minutiae of the lives of friends, family, celebrities, co-workers, strangers, brands, and employers. User generated content spans the gamut from the deadly serious to the comically whimsical. Not surprisingly, ecommerce has not been left unaffected. For many, a transaction is incomplete until the brand experience is shared on social media. And for some, the site of discovery, namely social media, is potentially the site of the transaction.

Mastering social is therefore essential to ecommerce leadership in circa 2018. The Litmus7 social-first ecommerce manifesto urges retailers everywhere to pursue the following:

Deep integration of social elements into the ecommerce experience. Customer ratings and reviews are almost as old as ecommerce. But the best retailers are going far beyond. On Sephora’s site, a user can view a product rater’s profile information such as eye colour and skin tone, helping them ascertain whether the rating is personally relevant. Users can also shop for a look posted on the social section of the app. Surfacing such intelligence results from deep integration across the ecommerce site and the Beauty Insider loyalty program which is a social network in its own right.

Transactions from within the social media environment. Pinterest has had buyable pins since 2015. Instagram has recently begun piloting native ecommerce with a section of its users. In February, Nike’s latest Air Jordan sold out on Snapchat in 23 minutes. The entirety of the US$2.3 trillion global ecommerce industry is geared towards reducing the gap between “I want this” and “I have this”. It will soon be the case that the site of manufacturing a need, such as Instagram, is the same as the site of fulfilling that need. Much of what web companies with gargantuan market capitalizations are currently doing is shaving seconds off digital commerce tasks, making the shopping experience ever more ridiculously easy. By enabling transactions within the social media environment, ecommerce firms can take instant gratification to its logical extreme.

A brand experience with Instagram potential. Much has been said about millennials prioritizing experiences over things. It is perhaps an instance of false dichotomy. Things beget experiences. The purchase of a well-designed product is an experience, its use underpins a memorable experience – one that would be shared on social media. Social media considerations should therefore drive not just marketing or customer service, but go further upstream, into the product development process itself. A social media intelligence gathering apparatus should inform product design right from the ideation stage.

Communities of interest. In the future, ecommerce will bifurcate. The first category will be commodity goods that are replenished – a large and diverse group that will increasingly fall under the ambit of subscription commerce. Everything else – any item that is discretionary – would be a public statement, and a vehicle for an individual’s self-expression. Such products require an audience, and the brand should be the one providing the platform and the audience. Case in point is our client Petco’s “selfie with pet” iOS app called Heads & Tails.

Transactions, seamless and embedded, across the consumer’s online and real life.  Continuing on the theme of instant gratification, much work is underway to make the entire web a giant ecommerce site. Wherever the user goes a shopping cart will follow. Exhibit A here is Google’s Shopping Actions. With Shopping Actions, a Google search does not merely lead to a quick perusal of the product listing, and then a visit to an ecommerce site. Instead, the user adds the product to Google’s shopping cart. Browsing becomes shopping. Over a quarter century of existence, the web has gone from a collection of documents, to a collection of people, and now it is well on its way to become a collection of communities and markets. Exhibit B here is the rapid adoption of the Google Home and Amazon Echo. Retailers, such as our client Walmart, is forming partnerships especially with the former to make transactions even more ridiculously easy than they are now.