In my definition, the essence of Retail Social Commerce is not just the ability for customers to interact with ecommerce catalogue items and convey their likes and recommendations - it is the ability for other customers to correlate those recommendations with their own personal preferences.
The above illustration touches on the 4 key areas in my opinion, and I will reference examples of each here below:
LIKES - largely popularised by Facebook, these are now pretty much ubiquitous on most sites - you simply tick an option or click on a ’thumbs up’ icon to indicate you like something - Facebook then cleverly references all these likes on the User’s Timeline. This is the simplest form of recommendation.
HOTLISTS - Amazon popularised these with their ListMania Lists, but there are lots of different examples of this - for instance the various DJ charts on juno.co.uk. In some ways these are really just more structured listings of ’liked’ items, but their impact is far stronger as when you see several examples of something you like in a list, you are more likely to check out the other entries. In various types of retail, Lists and Featured Charts are key to the selling process.
COMMENTS - The postive ones of these are a stronger form of ’likes’ - in that a positive comment not only indicates a liking for something, but offers up additional collateral / reasons to buy. ’Likes’ may have a nominal value of recommendation while the impact of positive comments / reviews is far stronger. I particularly like how Amazon lists the comments on the same page - I find comments hidden behind a tab are less impactful - far better to have a summary list of a couple with a more link than hiding all of them behind a one click selection.
PROFILES - Profiles are really useful as the final convincer for a recommendation, and this is one of the few areas where Amazon needs a lot of improvement. Being able to go to a user’s profile - something like the Facebook Timeline - and get a real context for a person’s likes and recommendations is key to the impact of those recommendations. We humans are always looking for like-minded souls, and really only pay heed to those we think are on the same wavelength as ourselves. In viewing a User’s profile - with a full outline of their likes and recommendations - you only then get a good idea of how near a match their preferences are to your own. Customers are much more likely to pay heed to recommendations from those they perceive to have similar tastes to their own.
The above four elements working together in unison are what I deem to be the minimal requirements for fully functional Social Commerce. Nearly all Social Commerce sites on the web are still divorced from the above outlined process - it does not work for me to have 3rd party ratings and comments on a site - and where I cannot gauge whether the commenter is in fact ’on my wavelength’ . Once you have all the above elements in place, you can include more clever functionality like being able to subscribe to like-minded users - so that you are notified whenever they like / comment / rate / hotlist anything.
Amazon does all kinds of clever notifications based on recent browsing history - such that if you have recently checked out cameras on Amazon you get a mailing with top 10 bestsellers of the cameras in the category/ies you viewed. What Amazon does not provide though is the user like-mindedness and the ability to cross-reference those recommendations and rationalise them within your own frameset of preferences.
Successful Social Commerce is really about the power of popular persuasion within a referential context!