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April 9, 2014

The Difference Between eCommerce And Social Commerce

How would you define marketing? There are quite a few definitions. The one I like best is the one that talks about satisfying the customers’ requirements profitably. The reason I like this is because, firstly, it makes it clear that businesses are there to make a profit. If they don’t, they go out of business and no one benefits from that.

Secondly, it emphasizes the profits that customers make should come through satisfying the customers’ requirements. It wasn’t always like this. There was a time, not that long ago, when the job of a company’s marketing department was to sell the company’s products, however unfit for purpose the products might be and however little they were desired by the customer. This sales orientation was very much a hangover from the industrial revolution and marketers are still living with the tarnish it has had on their reputations.

There is little doubt that some companies still adopt this sales-centric approach; however, today enlightened marketers realize the customer is at the centre of the marketing universe.


At its widest, the definition of eCommerce would include any type of business transaction that is conducted through an online medium. However, for most people, when they think about eCommerce, their minds would be concentrated on buying and selling, or online shopping as it is popularly called.

Some retailers reside in the physical world only and have bricks and mortar shops; some reside purely in the virtual world; others occupy both realms. Whatever realm(s) a retailer occupies; however small the enterprise may be; successful businesses know that the customer is king. The sales-centric emphasis to marketing fails in the long run.

Social Commerce

The phrase “social commerce” is relatively new; some date it to 2005 and suggest its first use was on Yahoo. The phrase does not have a long history, but the activity of social commerce is very much older. What the Internet has done is given a new outlet for the activity of social commerce to take place.

In very simply terms, social commerce involves the use by people of social networks to engage in eCommerce transactions. Shopping in the bricks and mortar world is very much a social activity — OK, perhaps not for everyone. On the whole, if you “go” shopping you take part in an activity that you can make as social as you want it to be.

On the other hand, shopping online can be very much a solitary experience; something that you do for convenience not because it’s going to be an experience that is up there with the things you have to do before you die.

“Social commerce” brings the bricks and mortar shopping experience to the virtual world. It adopts for eCommerce the techniques that marketers have deployed in the real world for decades to make the shopping experience more informative and enjoyable for customers.

The Customer King…

…and all kings have advisors. When you go shopping in the physical world there are any number of people you can ask for advice: the friends you are shopping with, sales staff and even other customers. But what about when you are online shopping?

It is a fact today that many people spend a good proportion of their time on various social media platforms. Therefore, why not allow sales to be made on these social media sites? Online shoppers can talk to their friends about what they are doing, take advice and make a purchase there and then. That is social commerce in action, but don’t run away with the idea that social commerce is just the facility to buy on Facebook.

Click and Buy

It has to be said that one of the great advantages of Internet shopping is the facility to click and buy. For some people, a long, drawn out buying process is just a total turn off. What they want is an online retail site that is easy to navigate, that makes it easy to find the products they want and makes it easy to complete the sale.

However, for many others this is the big disadvantage of eCommerce sites. They want something more. Social commerce allows social networks to be used by shoppers to get the bargains they want. But social commerce is a great deal more. It includes — and this list is not an exhaustive one — the use of customer reviews, ratings of products made by customers, referrals made by customers, forums and communities.

Let’s go back and remind ourselves about what enlightened marketers have been doing for some time now: they have been building relationships with customers. Stripped to its bare bones, click and buy e-commerce makes the task of relationship building with customers a difficult one. This is where social commerce comes to the aid of eCommerce.

E-shoppers who can source sound advice from various social platforms about the products they want to buy are more likely to enjoy their online shopping experience and are more likely to return to the e-retailer and buy again. And customers who return to buy again, and again is the key aim of customer relationship management.


The activity of social commerce is not new. Businesses know the importance of building relationships with their customers. What social commerce does is to facilitate customer relationship marketing in the world of eCommerce.


David Johnson is an online retailer, writer and marketing expert who is currently working for Savelgo which is a Social commerce site. Before moving into online retailing, David worked as a management consultant specializing in social media marketing for small and medium sized enterprises.