Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Does a straightforward transaction site need a social element?

As publishers start to work out that content (in and of itself) has little or no value outside of print, there's an increasing urge to shuffle along the supply chain.

There's also a growing willingness to understand that a disaggregated internet is best served by one trick ponies - sites/services which do one thing, but do that one thing better than anything else does.

This leads some to conclude that what they should deliver is a really good shop - a place that helps you make the transaction of your choice swiftly and efficiently.

This doesn't sound like the place for the socialised web2.0 - does it?

But a shop which ignores the attributes of 2.0 is a shop with a limited shelf life.

1. Consumers want to co-create. If your shop site doesn't allow the community of users to share their ideas about what it should sell, rate what is on sale, come together to propose improvements to what is on sale etc etc - you're locking out all the value of the network. Let members of your community pitch next year's ideas, rate them and shape them - and big up the things they love. If they score down some items - don't sell them. The community has spoken.
2. Two-way flow of communication beats the market: How do you know what your users want NEXT. The market shows you what they want now, and also what they don't want - but it can never tell you what next year's hit or miss is. Your community can - if you're engaged in a two-way flow. This is genuine 'consumer insight' based on real conversations with real people - not on generalised assumptions that "we know our market".
3. Convergence of buyer/seller/product developer/user/employee: If the employee and the user is converging in the concept of user generated content - the same can be said of communities of people trading together. eBay writes this large: The buyer and the seller converge. The buyer is also converging with the developer/designer (think BMW cars for a solid example happening now - the customer customises). This is a 3-dimensional version of a person - not a one dimensional "treat me as the customer... and only the customer" approach. In a 'shop' community environment one person can be a buyer/seller/developer/user/employee
4. Trust is communal: Trust is now created in a wiki-way. The social tools of 2.0 (eg diigo) make it ever easier for people to share what they think of a product or a supplier with their community, rapidly and in a way that is much more readily trusted by most consumers than old-style marketing messages. Sony tells you its PlayStation 3 is the dog's. The community tells them its made a heap of mistakes (1.1m views on YouTube of How to Kill a Brand 1.1m of PS3 vs Wii - apple style). How does your shop help the community decide what to trust?

4. The Social Customer manifesto (see recommended blogs, left) reads:

I can't see those boxes ticked by a shop front...

Conclusion: A shop site is just dandy - providing its a shop selling things the community rates, allows buyers to be sellers and designers, makes its offers spin free, opens doors to transparent two-way flows, and lets the community decide which products and or suppliers it is going to trust - and why. It's worth adding, that all trade has always been social. A one-to-one relationship ain't a business. A one-to-many is a trading community.


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?