Let's get this straight - e-commerce sites like Amazon revolutionized the way we shop, and now almost everybody shops online in some capacity. The recent success of inspirational sites like Pinterest have retailers and entrepreneurs scrambling to try and monetize these interest graphs.
None of The Big Boys Have It Cracked
The interesting thing is, where you might expect the likes of Facebook and Twitter to lead the way, they definitely don't have this cracked yet. Facebook tried it with their 'Instant Gratification' physical gifting program, which they mothballed last year.
Both platforms have launched retargeting platforms, and in particular Twitter's ability to offer this on mobile could be a key driver of success, as it will allow them to match user-intent with bottom of the funnel advertising. Whilst there seems to be massive potential for both platforms to really crack social commerce, neither have it quite right just yet.
What Else Is Out There?
Beyond the efforts of the big guns lie some really interesting social commerce sites:
A commerce-centric version of Pinterest, Polyvore drives a staggering shopping order value of $383 (where Twitter is under $60) and accounts for 20% of all social commerce.
An app that allows you to create your own 'wish list' of items, that you can then share to your family in friends around your birthday or Christmas (or anytime, really!). This is powerful as it allows you to collate items from any website, and has a clear purchase intent.
Shopcade also alerts you when the products you want go on sale, and make recommendations to you based on your other selections.
Similar to Shopcade, but more like a mashup of different things, Fancy describes itself as, ' Part store, magazine and wishlist'. One of the first sites to get a lot of attention in the social commerce space, Fancy was initially touted as 'Pinterest plus e-commerce' and so got a lot of initial users as 'the next big thing'.
The Future's Bright
A lot of the social commerce sites out there at the moment focus on discovery and curation of 'wanted' items, and one of the reasons for their success is that they are selling things that people didn't know they wanted to buy in the first place.
I read this article recently (via Patrick @ gomammoth) with an idea to build social commerce into achievements on fitness apps. Whilst the idea is intriguing, the potential user base is small, and I think the next big thing will somehow bring into the play the idea that 'we inherently trust our friends and family'. Adding a review or recommendation layer to commerce - but through people you already trust - might be the way for social commerce to really break through.
Whatever the new kids on the block end up doing, I'm sure Zuckerberg and co will have something to say about it.