Facebook and Amazon take Social Commerce to the Next Level

Amazon has always been a category leader in e-commerce for how helpful and personal its product recommendations have been.  Now they are taking this to the next level by pulling in Facebook’s social graph to aid them in their current product recommendations. Though this project is still currently in beta, it is a glimpse for marketers into how Facebook can be utilized, not only to create a more personal web experience, but also to help users make purchase decisions.  

I’ve been a long-time user of the functionality within Amazon that allows me to keep and organize wish lists for others (and myself), so much so that I create my entire Christmas and birthday lists within Amazon so that I can remember gift whims I have for others and myself throughout the year. 

Now it’s not all up to me and my order history to figure out what present to buy.  Amazon now allows users to connect their account with Faceook to utilize the data provided on friends’ profiles.  The following screenshot shows that after I’ve connected the two, I can be alerted on upcoming birthdays and get a snapshot of the types of products that are currently popular among my friends.

Since it is my brother’s birthday today (Happy Birthday Ryan!), I went over to see what types of products recommended for him. As you can see from the screenshot below, I have a nice list of gift suggestions based on his profile. 

Unfortunately, after asking him whether or not these suggestions are spot-on, he only sees a couple of items that strike his fancy, and even those are a little bit of a stretch.  This is likely because the only items he currently has “liked” on his profile are his evergreen favorites.  He is getting closer towards 30 (couldn’t resist), so it has been a few years since he created his profile, back when adding likes and interests was more of a deliberate and well thought-out process.  Unfortunately, because he isn’t actively “liking” new content across the web, I can’t tell how his tastes have changed or what he likes now.

On the flip side, one of my colleagues’ 13 year old sister has “liked” more than 1,000 pieces of content across the web – most of which is not product related, and most she will likely regret liking after a year or two of maturity. The screenshot below shows how someone in this demographic isn’t carefully considering what they “like” and has no idea how this could affect them in the future.

 

As you can tell from these two examples, for Amazon and other e-commerce retailers to take this to the next level – the “Like” button will not only need to be adopted, but consumers will need to understand what utilizing the “Like” button may mean for them.  It also will require the e-commerce site to have some degree of intelligence to be able to translate the “Like” data correctly.  For instance, if I “Like” something other than a book, movie, or music – how will that translate into product suggestions?  If I were to “Like” something like LoL Cats, will it translate to a suggestion of cat calendars? Or if I were to “Like” content on People of Walmart, would that offer me a Walmart gift card?  The next obvious question is the timing of the “Like”.  If I liked something 5 years ago will it still be relevant to Amazon?  Maybe, maybe not.

As you can imagine – there is still a lot to work out on behalf of both Facebook and e-commerce sites like Amazon.  However, the biggest takeaway for marketers at this point is that we are currently witnessing a stronger movement of e-commerce sites utilizing Facebook data to improve the product buying experience, rather than inserting the product purchase experience directly within Facebook. It also suggests that in the battle between Facebook and Google to be your default social profile, Facebook has yet another advantage.  Therefore, if you aren’t considering the impact of Facebook on e-commerce – you will need to start considering.  As Amazon has proved to us before, relevant shopping is the best type of shopping.  

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