Jaime González Gasque
The Valuable Alliance between Social Media and E-Commerce
The Internet has become a channel for looking for information, questioning, reading, participating and, what matters most to businesses, buying and making decisions on purchases. On the Internet, people express their tastes, preferences and needs and talk about their experiences as clients of brands and products. This is a source of data that users continuously generate is very profitable for producers, because, in recognizing client demands, they can adapt products to match tastes and offer a personalized experience in their purchasing process.
From the user perspective, gone are the days when brands spoke and the consumer could merely listen . The socialization of the media empowers users by giving them a voice in their buying process, and the opinions shared are becoming increasingly important, causing the so called social proof (social influence of information) and bandwagon effects (take over). The recommendations of users and word of mouth therefore influence the process of consumer pur-chasing, determining the path of the brand or product. And social networks, the relationship environment par excellence, can become a framework for motivation and sale due to this relationship, if a concrete strategy to sell on them exists. Given this scenario, social commerce is set as the socialization of online sales, obtained by adding a social component to the advantages that e-commerce offers. Its use allows users to shop online while commenting on the purchase they have made, accessing product recommendations made by their friends and sharing information.
Meanwhile, social commerce gives the company the opportunity to know its customers, adjust its offer and generate useful experiences that satisfy the demands of consumers, fostering a relationship with the brand’s users. That is, it can add value to the purchase by providing e-commerce social intelligence.In this chapter, we will study the benefits that the use of social media brings to the digital business, as well as its role in the consumer’s purchase decision and the brand experience that the user receives. We will observe, too, how traditional e-commerce is drifting increasingly toward social e-commerce, noting how social networks represent communication spaces that generate engagement and ways to serve the customer as well as sales platforms.To do so, we will begin by defining concepts relating to social relations and highlighting the im- portance of using social media strategies aimed at reaching certain goals.
Communication is defined as the two-way process that occurs due to group interaction. In it, individu-als obtain information on what surrounds them and are able to retransmit it to those who reported it to them, communicating with others. A key element in the communication process is the medium used to spread the message. In this regard, it should be noted that, starting in the early 1990s, the Internet has come to be widely used as a communication channel, both by companies and individuals.
Every day more and more people have their own website where they talk about topics that interest them, and many companies (if not all) have their own web page, where they show the company, its activities, products, etc. For this reason, the Internet is a medium of mass communication, by which users can get and give information on a specific topic, uploading and downloading different types of files: music, video, audio or text.
Currently, the Internet is considered one of the main mediums of mass and alternative communication. The traditional mediums of massive communication, such as press and TV, have several characteristics that make them different to the Internet. For example, information they contain can be lost or damaged, and it can only be updated by the publishing company and for the next edition. In comparing mass media, Internet differs in another important way, which is that all participants on the network can communicate their opinions through it. Thus, the Internet not only allows all players to create their own website but also to create content, and that content is disseminated globally.
Furthermore, this media ensures bidirectional communication. Therefore, the use of applications and email, chats and forums, among others, allows individuals to discuss a topic and exchange information, opinions, ideas and even other sources of information. Besides being a source of information and a medium of communication, the Internet is also a chan-nel for relations. This is because the Internet provides an environment in which different actors meet and interact.The Internet allows companies to establish direct relationships with different agents, particularly consumers. These relations stimulate access to different resources, promote the development of more efficient practices and allow the company to create and strengthen emotional bonds with their customers.
If we add the ease with which the Internet allows people to access and interact with other agents, we understand why the Internet can be considered a channel for relationships. Relations between the company and its stake holders can be developed in the context of production, sales and post-sales processes. In the first case we find the relationships that the company can establish with its suppliers. Among the last two we find those that the company establishes with dealers and customers. In particular, it is vital that companies establish relationships with their customers, as the new approaches to marketing promote the customer as the core element of the marketing strategy . More over, the Internet allows relations to take place between individuals, allowing them to create content and express their opinions and experiences through networks. This facilitates other individuals using this information in their decision making processes. Finally, the Internet enables individuals to be grouped together and interact with each other, forming communities where they share interests and exchange experience.
by Open University of Catalonia, Spain