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The Role Played by Social Media in Sustaining E-commerce

The Social media is revolutionizing the e-commerce business ever since its integration with online marketing and shopping portals. A few years back, applications such as product reviews, recommendations and ratings reigned as the most popular social media tools way before the term social media was actually coined. They not only enabled customers to find out what their peers were thinking but they also provided valuable user data and feedback to the retailer which could be reviewed in real-time. Retailers make use of social media to leverage their sales, customer base and customer satisfaction levels. Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., are contributing to the betterment of the e-commerce industry in many ways. The usage of such Social Media platforms is increasing year after year.

It has been officially reported that there are over 1.44 billion Facebook users, 302 million twitter users, 2.2 billion Google Plus users and 70 million users of Pinterest in India. The astronomically increasing engagement of people with social media platforms has attracted companies to invest in integrating social media with their existing platforms so as to gain maximum visibility. In India, ecommerce giants, such as Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon, etc., have cashed on to the popularity of social media platforms to acquire a wider customer base. Below, we discuss the benefits of introducing social media to e-commerce platforms.

Create awareness about a product:

The effect of social media on the sales of e-commerce has been pictorially represented below in a two-fold process:

As evident from the above representation, the process is categorized into “Assist” and “Last Interaction”. As the name suggests, the assist phase comprises of assisting channels that create awareness, consideration and intent in the minds of customers earlier in the purchase process. The last interaction stage is where the customers make decisions on the purchase based on the inputs they had previously received from social media.
Social media platforms play an important role in the assist phase wherein they help in increasing the awareness of the products and services in an ecommerce website. In fact the role of social media platforms is not just restricted to advertising the products but also to build up a bridge between the customers and the companies by engaging in one-to-one customer interactions. Even though the social media would not be considered to directly impact on the sales of an ecommerce company, it provides an opportunity for the company to build its brand image thus leading to huge sale of products and services in the future.

Creates a positive word of mouth:

Word-of-mouth is one powerful factor which affects the sales of products of an ecommerce company. Confidence of the customers can go down due to negative word of mouth about the product in the market. Controlling the nature of word of mouth is not practically possible for traditional marketing practices as the latter has no access to the individuals’ attitude towards the brand. Social media helps in connecting with people and thereby helps in creating a positive word of mouth about the brand.

Simplifying User Behavior Analytics:

Statistical analysis on previous year data about the customers’ buying behavior, trends in the market, competitors’ data, etc., takes lot of time to narrow down. Consequently, the decision making process of an organization is delayed. For example, for formulating the marketing strategy for different zones in the world, companies such as Wal Mart need to depend on a huge amount of past years’ data that can otherwise become inappropriate in context of the current trends. As a solution for this problem, analytics has been developed and is capable of being integrated with social media like Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, etc., so as to get a picture about the existing scenario of the industry. Hence, Social media platforms resolve the problem of collecting of huge volumes of data. Instead, they enable real-time usage of data to make business decisions then and there.

The above discussions suggest the imperative role played by social media in shaping the e-commerce industry. Trends of customer buying strategy, new ways of segmenting the customers, creating brand awareness, strategical decision making, etc., has been made smooth and easy for the ecommerce companies by combining social media with their portals.

Mobile commerce, alias M-Commerce is another platform that is overtaking ecommerce. This platform has more potential than ecommerce in utilizing the features of social media. Hence, it is expected that social media will be one of the key factors driving M-commerce in the times to come.