So, according to the recent Forrester report by Jeremiah Owyang on the Future of the Social Web, the future of the social web is in fact social commerce.  What I found interesting about this research is the idea that social commerce will be as much about innovation as it is about shopping.

Forrester break up the timeline of the social web into five distinct eras – culminating in the era of social commerce

  • The era of social relationships: Beginning in the mid-1990s, people signed up for online profiles and connected with their friends to share information.
  • The era of social functionality: As it exists today, social networking is more than just a platform for “friending,” but one that can support a broader array of what Owyang calls “social interactive applications.” However, identities are essentially disconnected silos within individual sites.
  • The era of social colonization: By late 2009, technologies such as OpenID and Facebook Connect will begin to break down the barriers of social networks and allow individuals to integrate their social connections as part of their online experience, blurring the lines between networks and traditional sites.
  • The era of social context: In 2010, sites will begin to recognize personal identities and social relationships to deliver customized online experiences. Social networks will become the “base of operation for everyone’s online experiences.”
  • The era of social commerce: In approximately two years, social networks will be more powerful than corporate Web sites and CRM systems, as individual identities and relationships are built on this platform. Brands will serve community interests and grow based on community advocacy as users continue to drive innovation in this direction.  This era of social commerce will be characterized by five trends:
    • Online groups supplanting brands as centers of online gravity
    • Consumers working with peers to define the nest generation of products, and purchase in groups
    • Brands leaning on online groups to define products
    • Social Networks offering features to help with product design and vendor management
    • New PR agency emerging to represent online groups – not brands

It’s an interesting vision, not sure I buy into the whole enchilada 100% – change I think will be far slower than Forrester predicts – but I do think the future of social commerce will include collaborative design with lead users.

On his web-strategist blog, Jeremiah has posted recommendations for brands to future-proof themselves for the coming era of social commerce

  • Don’t Hesitate: These changes are coming at a rapid pace, and we’re in three of these eras by end of year. Brands should prepare by factoring in these eras into their near term plans. Don’t be left behind and let competitors connect with your community before you do.
  • Prepare For Transparency:  People will be able to surf the web with their friends, as a result you must have a plan.  Prepare for every webpage and product to be reviewed by your customers and seen by prospects –even if you choose not to participate.
  • Connect with Advocates: Focus on customer advocates, they will sway over prospects, and could defend against detractors. Their opinion is trusted more than yours, and when the power shifts to community, and they start to define what products should be, they become more important than ever.
  • Evolve your Enterprise Systems: Your enterprise systems will need to connect to the social web. Social networks and their partners are quickly becoming a source of customer information and lead generation beyond your CRM system.  CMS systems will need to inherit social features –pressure your vendors to offer this, or find a community platform.
  • Shatter your Corporate Website: In the most radical future, content will come to consumers –rather than them chasing it– prepare to fragment your corporate website and let it distribute to the social web.  Let the most important information go and spread to communities where they exist; fish where the fish are.

I’ve pulled together some web collateral from and related to the Forrester study, which you can find below.

And a video explaining the findings…

And a couple of charts…

Five Eras

Forrester Five Eras