Social Commerce is Not New

Social commerce is not new, it started over 1000 years ago and it is about the Latin root ‘com,’ not the online environment, ‘.com.’

In Latin, ‘com’ means together, together with, or in combination. This root word is the origin of many words that we love to use in reference to digital marketing and social media, including community, communication, and commerce. This is no coincidence; yet, unfortunately, people often overlook the places that we come from and the traditions that feed our thoughts.

‘Com’ is an essentially human thing, something that has been around for all human history, at least so far as we can tell. ‘Com’ is about getting people together, whether that’s for protection, to share ideas, or to enable the exchange of goods according to certain agreed-upon norms.

Well before anyone had the faintest idea about a ‘marketer,’ people were coming together to market their goods and services to each other.

Because so many new tools and platforms are continually being born, all of which are easily in our reach, marketers are forced to try to determine and understand these new customer behaviours. This is especially true given the appearance of web 2.0 and its evolution into social media. Still, the thing that we’ve been looking for is none other than the behaviours that are already ingrained into our commerce DNA. We’re just “kind of” reinventing the old behaviours by giving them fun names and putting them online.

When social media commerce ‘burst onto the scene,’ at first blush it appeared to be a completely new area with new rules, new perspectives, new everything. It was going to be the future of commerce, and nobody would ever interact with brands and companies in the same way ever again. Yet, the real social commerce has been around for much longer than any of us.

Take this classic example of social commerce. If you happened to be in my old neighbourhood and asked my mother for the best bakery, she would definitely recommend you to the one where she’s been buying bread for the last 30 years. However, don’t expect a ‘thumbs up’ or a ‘like button’ from her; instead, she’ll probably just point you in the right direction. And you can trust me when I tell you that she’s a very social person.

As you can see, the gap between the new and old social commerce is not the distance or the lack of customer expertise in social commerce, but simply the lack of appropriated technologies and correct use of the existing ones by marketers.

Instead of expecting customers to take on new behaviours and adapting our strategies accordingly, we need to meet them where they are. It’s the same old song, just played on a different instrument.

The way that we use technology in today’s age cannot yet build the bridge that human interaction provides in the purchase process. Even if my mother did decide to like her local bakery’s Facebook page, would you actually care? Would you be persuaded to go there? I imagine that her pointing to it and smiling will be a much more convincing argument than any five-star review that she could leave.

Similarly, the trust that a knowledgeable and kind sales representative provides cannot be substituted by a rating stars system, the shared experiences of friends cannot be replicated via online video-chat, and the warmth that you feel when your partner smiles at you and says, “yes, it looks good on you,” is nothing like a thumbs-up given to a picture.

We can call it “social” all we want, but, at the end of the day, the real social aspects of our lives will always leave stronger impressions than anything we provide today in the digital space.