Discovery. That’s a big part of the role social commerce plays in the overall social media marketing meets sales mix. Every industry player I talk to – and I’ve talked to many, both on the brand side and platform vendor side – mentions the term.

Simply defined, discovery is the process for helping customers find new products that they may not have been aware of, and for sites as large as Zappos with its 136,000+ SKUs, discovery is an especially huge issue. That’s why it created a discovery tool called TweetWall.

According TweetWall creator Alice Han, the tool was designed to let Zappos’ customers know “what are people tweeting about right now. It creates a fun way to see what may be trending or what may just be an odd item we carry that’s a fun conversation starter.”

Visitors can browse through the TweetWall image gallery and see product tweets as they are posted in real-time. Users can tweet their own thoughts to see those featured on the wall, as well.

Zappos TweetWall

In terms of the interface, what’s one thing you notice? Does the word Pinterest come to mind? Yep, TweetWall (like just about every other site today) has co-opted Pinterest’s visually-oriented graphic design. It’s warm and friendly and, hey, a picture paints a thousand words, right?

TweetWall is not all that Zappos is up to when it comes to social commerce, especially in its “what people are talking about right now” iteration. The company has its own app development laboratory focused on building more, and that includes such things as a Facebook Order Sharing app, which allows your friends to see and interact with your latest Zappos purchase. There’s even an app that lets you see the weather in your area so you’ll know which of Zappos products to wear!

Starting years ago with CEO Tony Hsieh’s @Zappos channel, Zappos was one of the first companies to use Twitter as a social commerce tool. TweetWall is just the latest in its evolution – this time around with a focus on product discovery.

What This Means for Brands

There are three areas in which brands should place a focus:

Discovery – In a very insightful guest post at Forbes, Brian Ficho, CEO of social commerce site oBaz.com said this about discovery: “[W]hen properly executed, [discovery] is about helping consumers find stuff they didn’t even know existed. It begins by encouraging customers to offer information about their interests using a variety of techniques that deal in the individual’s self-interest, from games and metaphors to direct feedback. Moreover, discovery is an ongoing process, one that is continually refined over time to generate relevance at deeper levels regardless of how the person’s interests change.”

Real-Time – The web is real-time and all the time. I recall the brilliant web analytist Jeremiah Owyang saying years ago that “real time is not fast enough.” In terms of discovery, people want access to information immediately and expeditiously.

Interface Design – There’s a reason more and more sites, including Facebook, have transitioned from a text-based orientation to one that stimulates more visual interest. Reverse chronological ordering of content is tired and overused. Conversely, Pinterest’s use of an image-centric, non-linear interface is the new, cool way to do design and is the methodology mimicked by TweetWall.

In what ways can your brand take advantage of this amalgam of real-time discovery via a graphic interface? What other implications does Zappos TweetWall hold for brands that wish to engage more effectively in social commerce?

TweetWall product page