Houston, we have a problem.  Or so it would seem.  New data from IBM (with accompanying report below) shows mobile commerce in 2012 is booming – now representing 15.1% of all online sales (Q2 2012 – up from 13.2% in Q1).

If e-commerce from mobile devices is shining, the same cannot be said of social commerce (defined for the study as sales from shoppers referred from social networks) – which dropped 20% in Q2 2012 to account for just 1.9% of online sales (down from 2.4%).

Of course, we’re comparing apples and pears here – m-commerce is about the device, social – in this report – is about sites. And social commerce is far more than simply converting e-commerce traffic from social sites.  Indeed social commerce is a game of four quarters

  • e-commerce on social (e.g. pop-up stores in social media such as Burberry, in-app purchases for social apps)
  • social on e-commerce (e.g. social plugins on e-commerce sites – e.g. from social media buttons a la American Apparel, to users reviews)
  • e-commerce in-store (e.g. social features in traditional stores – Facebook-connected fitting rooms such as Diesel Cam)
  • in-store on social (e.g. retail events streamed into social media – e.g. Facebook launch of Ford Fiesta0

In the IBM report, all the four quarters of social commerce are essentially excluded if social commerce is reduced to social e-commerce traffic – so social commerce sales are under-reported.

More essentially, it’s becoming clear that it’s a mistake to think of social as a channel.  Channel thinking is legacy thinking; instead social – and indeed mobile – should be seen as a layer, not a channel or silo, in commerce.  Social commerce is about adding social features to the shopping experience not creating another sales silo.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that mobile commerce is growing bigger and faster than social commerce.  Why?  Well, mobile-enhanced commerce has a clear value proposition that hits one of the core 4C’s of marketing – convenience.

Social, on the other hand has yet to communicate and deliver real value with social.  This is ironic because there is a crystal clear value proposition for social commerce – it makes shoppers smarter.  Social commerce allows people to learn from the experience of others.  Only fools learn only from their own experience.  Social commerce is smart commerce.  That’s the value proposition we need to pursue if we are to crack the code of social commerce.