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Social Commerce: What It Is and 6 Companies Doing It Well

Considering how ubiquitous social commerce is becoming, it’s interesting - and a mystery - that some marketers are still having a difficult time defining exactly what it is. We suspect it’s confusing because “social” has so many different definitions. 

If someone tells her friend about a great pair of shoes over coffee and her friend immediately buys them - is that social commerce? Sure. But since that’s not something marketers can directly influence and for the purposes of this article, we’re choosing to look at social commerce as sales that are managed through social media, whether that be Twitter, Facebook, or websites that cater purely to shopping. Basically, harnessing the power of word of mouth and social media, and converting that into sales. 

Still confused? Don’t worry. We found six examples we’re excited about that should also help clear things up.


In early May, Amazon announced a partnership with Twitter that allows users to add items to their cart directly from their Twitter feed. It’s a little clunky, sure; users have to see a tweet with an Amazon link that contains an item they want and then reply to that tweet with #AmazonCart. But, it is convenient in that it lets users take action in the moment. Be honest: how many times have you opened a new tab only to forget what you meant to do next? Exactly. And the good news for impulse shoppers is that items are just being added to their cart. They still have to go to Amazon later on to checkout. Of course, this could also be seen as a nuisance, but we like that we have to think twice about those roller skates we totally “had” to have at 11 p.m. last night.

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Pinterest’s Rich Pins

Rich Pins on Pinterest allow users to add “useful” information to their Pins. This might be an address (Place Pins), a story description (Article Pins), ingredients (Recipe Pins), or the one that should interest brands the most: real time pricing, availability, and a “Buy This” link (Product Pins). Real time pricing is an amazing feature because users who pin something actually get an email notification from Pinterest if the price drops, making the Product Pin a million times more useful than something like a “favorite.” The adoption rate with retailers isn’t huge -- YET -- but so far retailers like, Zappos, and Shopbop are all seeing good results. Target even went so far as to create “The Target Awesome Shop,” which shows shoppers which Target products are popular on Pinterest at any given moment. Shopify also just got on board, which now means Rich Pins are available for all of their merchants.

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Wanelo is short for “Want, Need, Love” which is basically the best way to describe shopping. It’s a social network that makes it easy to find amazing stores (over 300,000 so far) and products -- like Pinterest but just for shopping. Users can follow influencers and stores to get a curated selection of products they’re likely to wither want, need, love or… hopefully: buy. Users can also “tag” friends if they see something the want to share or “save” it for later. They’re currently testing in-app purchases, which would be a huge game changer for online shopping. Just to give you a sense: Nordstrom has over 1.2 followers on Wanelo who have uploaded over 200,000 products to the brand’s page for over 30 million saves, significantly more than have been saved on Pinterest.

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Facebook’s “Buy” Button

You knew it was coming… In July, Facebook started testing a “Buy” button that lets users make purchases through ads on the site. The goal is clearly to create impulse purchases, helping retailers and advertisers boost sales. Considering Facebook seems to know within seconds which commerce sites we’ve recently visited, this feature could be a huge success. Plus, you don’t have to click away to the merchant’s site -- everything happens within Facebook -- which should help conversion rates.

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American Express Sync

Want to save on a shopping excursion, vacation, or even your morning donut? American Express lets you connect your card to Twitter so you can get exclusive savings just by tweeting offer-specific #hashtags. If you were planning to go to Whole Foods anyway, why not get $10 off while you’re there?

Shoppable Videos

Watching a video online and see something you want to buy? Yeah: now you can actually do that. The Future is Here. (And has been for over a year.) Shoppable videos, videos that are motion touch enabled, are a way for brands to engage users and give them a new way to shop. The theory is that by giving users more education -- whether that’s an editorial point of view or just the ability to see a product move on a body -- it will create higher conversion rates. There are a few companies doing this well: Cinematique and Fuisz Media are amongst them. Cinematique has done videos for (owned by LVMH) and Fuisz Media found huge success last year with AwesomenessTV and a series of Wet Seal branded videos. Fuisz says when there is a verbal call to action (not just a visual one), the click-through rate is over 30 percent. That’s a number any marketer would love to hear.

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