So Nestlé has joined the social commerce movement, launching an innovative new social marketplace (Nestlé Marktplatz), allowing consumers to discover, shop and share 72 Nestlé brands. Piloting in Germany, this direct-to-consumer marketplace showcases Nestlé’s extended brand range – giving German customers exclusive access to new yet-to-be commercialised products, and products not otherwise commercialised in Germany (such as Baci Perugina chocolate pralines from Italy and extra-spicy Maggi chilli sauce from Malaysia).

Significantly, Nestlé is looking to engage Marketplace customers as brand advisors – inviting ideas and suggestions for new products, packaging and usage occasions.  In other words, the marketplace is not only a forum for buying and selling, it’s also a forum for conversations between customers – who can rate, comment, seek advice and share ideas with each other – and a forum for conversations with customers.

Integrating ‘empowered involvement‘ is a smart move from Nestlé – not only because it will help generate useful consumer insight, turning the marketplace into a live learning lab, but it will also drive loyalty and advocacy for Nestlé brands.  Far from undermining traditional channels (the big worry with brand-led DTC plays), the Nestlé Marktplatz – if managed smartly – will drive footfall and e-commerce traffic to those channels – via the advocacy effect produced by engaging customers as brand advisors.

Gerhard Berssenbrugge, chief executive of Nestle Germany, explains: “We are encouraging two-way communication with consumers; allowing them to tell us what they like, but also what they think we could improve. We want to be inspired by people’s ideas and to enable them to take an active part in helping us shape not only the future of the Nestle Marketplace, but also of our products.” The platform has been designed and built by WPP agencies JWT and G2 Argonauts, and includes a supporting Nestlé Marktplatz Facebook Page.

Overall, we like the concept of the Nestlé Marktplatz, particularly as an insight and advocacy generator, and as a central e-commerce platform that will be able to power individual Facebook fan-stores for individual brands.  We see the value for Nestlé, but the challenge for Nestlé will be to demonstrate a compelling reason-to-shop on this central marketplace – as opposed to from a brand-specific Facebook fan-store, or from supermarkets offering a far broader range of products. Why shop 72 brands when you can shop 7200 brands on online supermarkets?

The draw certainly won’t come from the Marketplace’s social features – these are increasingly standard hygiene factors on all decent e-commerce platforms.  Instead, we think Nestlé should turn up the volume on the Marketplace’s differentiator – exclusive access to new and non-local products, whilst adding in an enhanced dose of brand utility in the form of exclusive and quality recipe/nutrition guides/apps and a Kraft iFood-style shopping list manager. We’d also integrate the Marketplace with Facebook, if only to do away with the daunting friction-laden sign up form.

Kudos, nonetheless, to Nestlé for becoming a brand pioneer in the social commerce space; the Nestlé Marktplatz will undoubtedly evolve, and the company has real pedigree in the e-commerce space, as the owner of perhaps the biggest consumer brand e-commerce success story so far – Nespresso.

It’ll be nice to enjoy our Nespresso Ristretto with exclusive Italian Baci chocolates…