July 13, 2011

Q&A with Janice Diner, social commerce consultant

Posted by: in North America

Whether Janice Diner is speaking to a client or a crowd about social commerce, she is passionate about the possibilities for retailers and their constituents. As the founding partner at Horizon Studios, a social business design consultancy, the Toronto-based Diner works to develop social commerce strategies and brand communities for clients such as Hertz, TD Canada Trust, Sony’s PlayStation and RIM BlackBerry. A former creative director and strategist, Diner spent time at Canadian agencies Sharpe Blackmore (Euro Havas) and Segal Communications (Interpublic).

As we researched our Social Commerce trend report, we talked to Diner about how she sees social commerce evolving and what brands should be doing to keep up in this fast-moving space. Her mantra, the thing she says she tells clients time and again, is that to sell products, they need to be where their customers are—and that isn’t necessarily a brick-and-mortar location. Brands that ignore F-commerce, m-commerce and other forms of social commerce do so at their peril, she warns. Increasingly, the social graph will be the tool that will help brands find customers and customers find brands.

What are we talking about when we talk about social commerce?

I like to focus on the two words: “social,” meaning that you’re in a relationship with the consumer and the brand. And “commerce”: the sale of goods. So it’s the sale of goods that are socially influenced. It’s a subset of e-commerce that involves using social media; it’s online media that supports social interaction and user contributions to assist in the online buying and selling of products and services.

You find social commerce inside Facebook, on e-commerce sites; Twitter is being used for specialty sales all the time; mobile devices—checking in with friends and getting deals. And you’re seeing physical installations that support social interaction to help drive a purchase, like with Macy’s [Magic Fitting Room].

What’s the goal for retailers and brands?

Your goal is to engage in dialogue with your customers and to sell goods. You’re going to take your e-commerce strategy and your marketing strategy, and you’re going to put a social layer.

This is what I tell clients: “We have this new layer. And we’re going to decide which channel makes sense for you, based on your business objective. So if you have an e-commerce engine, then we’re going to implement social tools on your e-commerce engine. We’re going to have a discussion and take a look at the objectives.”

I really think anyone that’s selling on the Web should be experimenting and try a couple of things. We don’t know the answers, we just know that we’re moving this way. And if you’re gaining critical mass inside Facebook, you should be experimenting with selling and servicing your clients on Facebook.

What’s your opinion on the Forrester report that concluded that Facebook commerce is not a necessary strategy for most retailers?

If you’re not exploring commerce opportunities on Facebook, your competition will be. My gut reaction was that it’s an intelligent document, but the conclusions are too early—there’s not enough data to make broad assumptions on success or failure yet

One roadblock might be a privacy issue. How much of my personal information do I have to reveal in order to enter a Facebook store?

When a user moves from their Facebook page to inside a Facebook store, you agree to share your information. But you are agreeing to share the information within the application, meaning that the information lives inside the application only and can’t be merged with an outside database—say, a retailer’s e-commerce site. Facebook prohibits app makers from transferring data about users to outside advertising and data companies.

But why bother—what’s the advantage to retailers and shoppers of using a Facebook store versus a regular e-commerce site?

The argument is that there are 600 million people who have Facebook pages, half of whom show up every day and spend 400 and something minutes a month on Facebook. So they are there, spending time. And then if you add social into it—where you are telling people what you think about a product, what you bought—that’s something you don’t always get on an e-commerce site.

Do you think Facebook stores will replace brands’ e-commerce sites?

We’re talking about augmenting. There’s no business case for Facebook replacing brands’ websites, at least not now.

How does social commerce manifest itself offline?

I love Macy’s Magic [Fitting Room], where you can go into the store, try on something virtually, upload a picture via Facebook and send it to a friend. That’s a great use of social commerce.

So social commerce is really about leveraging that instinct that so many people have to make shopping a social experience?

Right. How many times have you stood in line at a store and seen someone talking on their mobile phone with someone about what they are buying? I was at a Coach store in Florida at Christmastime. The woman in front of me had taken a picture of the purse she was buying and sent it to a friend; I heard her ask, “Do you want me to buy one for you as well?”

The best virtual social experiences mimic real-life social experiences. When I design for a client, I always go back to this rule of thumb: What is the current behavior, and how can we add a social technology layer on to that? How are people engaging socially in our category?” You’re not changing consumer behavior, you’re just adopting it to the virtual.

Like, “Look at this great deal I got”?

Facebook claims post-purchase sharing can increase conversion by two to three times. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But it seems logical to me. That’s the way it works. “I went skiing here, and it was great.” Or, “I’m going to this concert. Anyone want to come with me?”  Facebook is really good in enabling all those things. And they’re all attached to purchasing things.

So that, to me, is what it’s really about. People may be questioning whether social commerce is working, but nothing I’ve done in the last six years was proven before I did it.

Can we look ahead and see how the next six months will play out in social commerce?

Oh, gosh, if I knew it, I’d be building it.

Well, what should retailers and brands be thinking about?

They should be channel agnostic. They should take my goods or technology or whatever they are selling and take it where their audience is. It shouldn’t matter whether it’s online, mobile, at the physical store.

Can you think of a good example?

A really good example is the Starbucks card. It’s utilitarian, it’s got a loyalty aspect, and it has a social layer. I have a Starbucks card. I can put money on that physical card from the website or from the Facebook tab. And I can also have an application on my phone. If one of my Facebook friends has the application on their Facebook, I can buy them a cup of coffee by putting money on their card. So now I’ve got a social sharing layer when I’m transferring payments. When I met a friend in a New York airport, he waved his phone and bought me my coffee on his card. So it’s all one piece of technology, just being distributed across multiple media or channels.

Speaking of virtual payments, Facebook is pushing Facebook Credits, which were originally used for games, into the physical world. Who would take advantage of Facebook Credits?

It was originally a payment system for applications and gamers, and it’s becoming the mandatory payment system inside games. But people are offering other ways to use Credits. Warner Bros., with the movie The Dark Knight, was one of the first ones. This April, Facebook introduced Facebook Deals [Facebook’s version of Groupon]—if you want to purchase the deals, you can purchase them with PayPal, with one of your credit cards, or use your Facebook Credits. Now Walmart, Best Buy and Target all sell Facebook Credit gift cards. Now I can buy real goods. And it’s being supported by people’s newsfeed; it’s being supported by the 600-million-pound gorilla.

Could it end up being its own currency?

What’s to stop it from being its own currency? They are slowly adding features to the credit system, like transferring credits to your friend. That’s transferring payments in real-world terms. Right now, it’s just transferring credits; what’s to say tomorrow it’s not transferring money for real goods? It’s starting to sound like PayPal to me.

What’s the bottom line for brands or retailers—that you’ve got nothing to lose by implementing a social commerce strategy?

You can’t ignore where your customers are; you can’t assume they will just show up in your store. You have to market to them. How can you ignore check-ins? How can you ignore any of these things? You can’t. You have to start experimenting with it. And you have to see what works for you. Probably not everything is going to work. But what are you waiting for—your competition to do it successfully? You don’t have to do everything. But be first. I spend my days looking for clients that are ready.

I think it’s the most amazing time in the world to be in business. We’re in the midst of a revolution; it’s hugely disruptive, but there are incredible opportunities. Every business and every industry needs to be rethought in a social way. As long as you’re rethinking and you’re examining what the potential is for your business, and then you’re trying a little bit of it, you’re fine. You’re moving along. But to do nothing is ridiculous.

2 Responses to "Q&A with Janice Diner, social commerce consultant"

1 | Andrew P

July 14th, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Avatar

Excellent overview of Social Commerce as a whole, but the focus seems to be on connecting brands to consumers. In my mind, the real advantage to Social Commerce is connecting consumers to consumers, which replicates the offline experience of shopping. Specifically, the top tier Social Q&A products are very intriguing and seem to be garnering rapid adoption by online retailers.

Janet mentioned that “The best virtual social experiences mimic real-life social experiences.” I completely agree. Social Q&A allows shoppers to ask questions to customers who have already purchased the item. That would result in a really familiar, fun and effective customer experience.

2 | Janice Diner

July 15th, 2011 at 7:44 am

Avatar

Good point Andrew, adding social plugins like, share and recommend help make commerce social especially the use of Facebook connect Take a look at http://www.tripadvisor and log in with Facebook Connect. it is a very good example of this in action.

Comment Form

SIGN UP FOR OUR WEEKLY EMAIL NEWSLETTER:

New: 10 Years of 10 Trends

The Future 100

JWT AnxietyIndex

Things to Watch

  • Crossing ‘the digital divide’
    March 19, 2015 | 4:24 pm

    ggw_16-9

    In a piece on an 82-year-old going online for the first time, The Washington Post called attention to a rising issue—the divide between those who use the Internet and those who don’t (13% in the U.S., and 41% among senior citizens).

    Continue reading “Crossing ‘the digital divide’” »

  • Incremental saving and giving
    March 11, 2015 | 1:51 pm

    Call it progress or just laziness—apps are popping up that harness our small change and put it to better use. Acorns, dubbed “the Tinder of investing,” links to a user’s debit or credit card and rounds up to the nearest dollar on every purchase. The app then takes that spare change and invests it in a portfolio of the user’s choice—portfolios range from low to high risk (and reward). Or users can opt to let Acorns choose for them based on their age, goals, income and other factors. Meanwhile, apps like Qapital and Digit facilitate regular small transfers from checking to savings, and banks themselves are getting on the incremental savings bandwagon. (See: Bank of America’s Keep the Change and Wells Fargo’s Way2Save.)

    Continue reading “Incremental saving and giving” »

  • Augmenting sleep
    March 9, 2015 | 12:02 pm

    Sense orb

    Digital platforms are already integrated into our every waking minute—now they’re moving into our sleep. A spate of apps and devices aim to aid and facilitate better sleep, from ambient lamps to a lucid dreaming sleep mask to an app that wakes you up with a phone call from a stranger.

    Continue reading “Augmenting sleep” »

  • The sharing economy grows up
    March 3, 2015 | 3:30 pm

    Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 2.28.41 PM

    Hotel giant Starwood has bought in to the sharing economy. The group, which owns W Hotels, St. Regis and Sheraton, has announced a partnership with car service Uber in which every dollar spent by a guest on an Uber car earns points toward free rooms and other perks.

    Continue reading “The sharing economy grows up” »

  • Digital immersive exercise
    February 25, 2015 | 4:04 pm

    immersive-fitness-the-trip

    Equinox’s new revved-up cycle class speaks to a growing exercise trend—digital immersion. This month the gym brand unveiled Pursuit, an immersive cycling concept, to limited U.S. gyms. Equinox describes the program as “an immersive studio cycling experience that uses groundbreaking gaming and data visualization to drive competition and inspire peak performance.”

    Continue reading “Digital immersive exercise” »

  • Science fare
    February 20, 2015 | 2:07 pm

    Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 12.59.22 PM

    The worlds of science, gastronomy and art are continuing to cross-pollinate—from edible conceptual art to molecular gastronomy “lab cafés” to synesthetic dining events. Café ArtScience in Cambridge, Mass., is a recent example. Opened late last year by David Edwards, a Harvard engineering professor, the café serves whiskey “fogs” through a special carafe that turns the liquor into vapor (which means consumers don’t take in any of the calories and feel none of the intoxicating effects).

    Continue reading “Science fare” »

  • Aman’s authentic-luxe travel
    February 11, 2015 | 1:06 pm

    Amandira1_509

    As travelers continue to seek out authentic and unique experiences, hospitality brands keep raising the bar on hyper-localized offerings and exceptional access. Aman, for instance, is introducing a phinisi-style sailing ship in Indonesia, marrying the brand’s ultra-luxe sensibility with regional tradition. With an outdoor lounge and bar, the option to travel by motor, and air-conditioned cabins, the ship brings every modern comfort to an age-old means of navigating the Indonesian archipelago. Another Aman property, meanwhile, offers a dip into paleontology: Guests at Amangiri in southern Utah can join an official dig at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, working alongside fossil experts for a half-day. The cost of getting one’s hands dirty starts at $600. (Resulting Instagram images: priceless.) —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Aman

  • Adidas’ ‘virtual line’
    February 5, 2015 | 6:55 pm

    Adidas

    Adidas’ new Confirmed app cleverly harnesses the fervor of collectors who normally line up for limited-edition shoes, moving fans onto a mobile platform. App users create an account, then get push notifications when hot new releases are on the way. Interested buyers in a given metro area—only New York City at launch—indicate their size and, if approved, receive details on where and when to pick up the shoes. An Adidas exec calls it a “virtual line.” In addition to collecting data on these super-fans, the app lets Adidas control which influencers get various styles, drives traffic to selected stores, builds additional buzz and cuts out secondary-market sellers armed with bots that secure advance orders. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Bloomberg

  • Adventurous play
    February 4, 2015 | 1:09 pm

    Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 12.00.22 PM

    Kids will slide through a “Tunnel of Terror” and get slimy on “Mount Mud” in Tough Mudder’s new obstacle course for the 7-12 set. The endurance-challenge purveyor is partnering with European soft drink brand Britvic on Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder, with events planned for the U.S., the U.K. and Ireland. The concept caters to parents looking to pry kids away from screens and get them moving—there’s now a CrossFit offshoot for kids, starting with preschoolers—in ways that are challenging and fun.

    Continue reading “Adventurous play” »

  • Rivals joining forces
    January 26, 2015 | 7:19 pm

    Volkswagen_5 2000px-BMW.svg

    Not long ago, a collaboration between two rival companies would have been seen as a counterintuitive and perhaps desperate measure. In 2015, however, BMW’s partnership with Volkswagen on fast-charging electric vehicle stations makes the automakers look self-confident, open and serious about sustainability and the common good.  Continue reading “Rivals joining forces” »

  • RSSArchive for Things to Watch »