Social commerce is a subset of electronic commerce that involves social media, online media that supports social interaction, and user contributions to assist online buying and selling of products and services.
More succinctly, social commerce is the use of social network(s) in the context of e-commerce transactions.
The term social commerce was introduced by Yahoo! in November 2005 which describes a set of online collaborative shopping tools such as shared pick lists, user ratings and other user-generated content-sharing of online product information and advice.
The concept of social commerce was developed by David Beisel to denote user-generated advertorial content on e-commerce sites, and by Steve Rubel to include collaborative e-commerce tools that enable shoppers “to get advice from trusted individuals, find goods and services and then purchase them”. The social networks that spread this advice have been found to increase the customer’s trust in one retailer over another.
Social commerce aims to assist companies in achieving the following purposes. Firstly, social commerce helps companies engage customers with their brands according to the customers’ social behaviors. Secondly, it provides an incentive for customers to return to their website. Thirdly, it provides customers with a platform to talk about their brand on their website. Fourthly, it provides all the information customers need to research, compare, and ultimately choose you over your competitor, thus purchasing from you and not others.
Today, the range of social commerce has been expanded to include social media tools and content used in the context of e-commerce, especially in the fashion industry. Examples of social commerce include customer ratings and reviews, user recommendations and referrals, social shopping tools (sharing the act of shopping online), forums and communities, social media optimization, social applications and social advertising. Technologies such as Augmented Reality have also been integrated with social commerce, allowing shoppers to visualize apparel items on themselves and solicit feedback through social media tools.
Some academics have sought to distinguish “social commerce” from “social shopping”, with the former being referred to as collaborative networks of online vendors; the latter, the collaborative activity of online shoppers.