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Thoughtful post from Altimeter founder and author (Groundswell, Open Leadership), Charlene Li on four phases through which Altimeter believe organizations will evolve as they embrace social commerce – leading to a fundamental reorganization of how they operate and sell. (The post is another sneak peak from the forthcoming Altimeter report on social commerce, promoting Altimeter’s upcoming ‘Rise of Social Commerce‘ conference).

Altimeter suggest that social commerce at companies will develop through the following four phases:

  1. Social For The Sake Of Social. Brand building using social media; learning to listen, building dialogue and a fan base.  But organizations and customers alike want more than marketing…
  2. Enlightened Engagement: Beyond listening and dialogue – using social media to learn from customer feedback and customer conversations in order to improve product and service design – using social media tools to test those improvements.
  3. Store Of The Community: Beyond learning and testing with social media – open innovation processes to identify unmet needs and opportunities, accelerate new product and service development, and inform the 4Ps of marketing (Product, Price, Promotion and Positioning (contra Place). Through customer and partner input, companies begin to redesign the shopping experience with mobile applications, geo-location shopping, 2-D tagging, social gaming, social couponing, smart shelves—coupled with social technologies, loyalty programs and point of sale data.
  4. Frictionless Commerce. The redesign of the shopping experience to improve the commerce experience and build customer intimacy.  Push-based processes give way to the momentum of community pull. Friends can buy with friends, new services can be delivered, checkout becomes more automated, and channels become more seamless.

There is much to like about the Altimeter four-phase social commerce framework – it provides a route map for deploying social commerce, a rationale for doing it, and a categorization of tools.  And the term “store of the community” is delicious.

However, until we see the report, it’s unclear how Phases 1 and 2 count as “commerce” – they seem to describe social media marketing, and social media-powered customer service/feedback rather than buying/selling. Is the suggestion that vendors should master social media marketing/monitoring and customer service before moving onto social commerce proper?  We eagerly await the report.