Here’s an interesting post, with some enthusiastic Amazon-bashing over at Marketing Profs by Customer Experience consultant Leigh Duncan-Durst of Livepath.
In a nutshell the post argues – with some groovy Radian6 charts – that Amazon is an anti-social company that needs to “pull its head out of the virtual sand”: Amazon just doesn’t understand social commerce, hasn’t been keeping pace with changes in social media, and is failing to use Facebook and Twitter for customer service and crisis communications.
Leigh Duncan-Durst’s post is smart, evidence-based and well thought through. And it’s a point of view. Here’s an alternative – and one we think that brands and retailers may consider as a counterpoint when developing their social commerce strategy.
Why Amazon Does Understand Social Commerce
A pioneer in adding a social layer to e-commerce, with ratings, reviews, tell-a-friend, and wish lists, Amazon understands that social features and a social business mindset may have a key role to play in its future growth.
So through a mix of joint ventures and acquisitions Amazon is acquiring social expertise – the purchase of BuyVIP, a leading European version of Gilt.com a members only club for private-sales; the purchase of customer experience darling Zappos, a partnership with consumer goods giant P&G to sell on Facebook, and partnering in the sFund with Zuckerburg that is backing, amongst others, the next generation “this is not your mother’s social network” social commerce platform Lockerz (with the natty I-wish-I-had-thought-of-that “friends with benefits” tagline).
- Amazon is the largest retailer to have deployed Facebook Open Graph social plugins, bringing Facebook functionality to website’s shopping experience.
- Amazon has gone out out of its way to make its product pages more friendly for sharing on Twitter and other social sites with the amzn.com/B001FB4W16 style short links.
- Amazon enables customers to gift on Facebook – buy a voucher and get it posted to their wall on their birthday. Amazon doesn’t get social commerce?
We could go on, but the point is that there is no cookie-cutter solution to doing social commerce; we think Amazon is being smart with social commerce; buying in proven expertise, building on what it knows works, investing where there could be a clear return on investment and experimenting carefully.
For big companies, the best kind of social is often when social is not used to talk to customers, but is used instead to enable customers to talk to each other, and to shop smarter.
There is a case for using Twitter and Facebook for customer service, but there’s also a good case for not doing so, especially if you a (very) large volume retailer; the ease of firing off messages on social platforms creates a information barrage, issues of scalability and a “drinking from the fire-hose” problem.
And as for using social media for crisis communications in PR, there’s a case for that when people need real time status updates (say an ash cloud or a train in the euro-tunnel), but censorship/anti-censorship rows – largely a case of the deaf shouting at the deaf – Amazon is smart not to add to the cacophony.
No Amazon isn’t perfect as Leigh’s post usefully points out, but we think it’s the nearest to a dancing elephant in the social commerce space there is.