Version 1.0 – Hello, Anybody Home?
Imagine walking into a store and finding instead a ghost town. All the products on the shelves, but there’s no one there, not the storekeeper and no customers either. At dotbox, that’s how we see old-school ecommerce.
That’s how it looks—no one’s home except the credit card transaction machine. As a firm dedicated to social commerce, we’d like to change that by helping retail brands online move into the next generation.
Version 2.0 – Takes Two to Tango
People crave company. It’s the activity and seeing who’s there—hopefully people like us—that makes us feel at home. It’s no different online, where everyone spends a lot of time on Facebook checking in on their friends. Forward-thinking retail brands have caught on, flocking to the social network to capture some of that love. Many now make significant investments in pages and apps, along with staff to monitor and build momentum and campaigns to jumpstart and rally their communities.
The majority of retailers now work hard to coordinate their ecommerce website and Facebook page. But too many concentrate all their brand activity on Facebook, using it as the main channel to talk to their customers, to the detriment of their own brand hubs. This is not good. Still hitched to the limited capabilities of their platforms, they are forced to become split personalities—authentic, fun and chatty on Facebook, as best practices dictate, and institutionally reserved on their own ecommerce hub.
dotbox has gained a unique perspective helping many high-end retailers navigate these currents, and we’ve observed that many chafe at having to sacrifice the nuances of their carefully cultivated looks-and-feels to standardized Facebook design templates and frameworks. (To make matters worse, Facebook is fond of making changes that require retailers to continuously adjust their pages and apps.) Unfortunately, getting on Facebook has always been on Facebook’s terms. Too often, we’ve had to be the bearer of bad news—as in, sorry, you just can’t do that.
Version 3.0 – Whose Party Is It, Anyway?
But there’s much you can do. fCommerce now allows consumers to shop where they meet—all the way through checkout—without ever leaving the social network. It’s a step in the right direction. Our recent Facebook store for beauty brand Laura Geller ties it together on the back end, so it runs off the very same platform as their ecommerce website.
But the bigger move, we believe, is to bring the whole party back home to one’s main hub. Now that Facebook Open Graph sets in motion a whole new world of opportunities—by allowing a consumer’s social graph to travel with them wherever they go—dotbox can turn the ghost town into a hive, abuzz with social activity. It only remains for etailers to bring the social right in through the front door of their online stores, where their brand resonates most vividly. When you populate your web store with information about the people who are there, for all to see, and get them interacting transparently with each other and your products, you’re essentially bringing it to life.
After adding Facebook functionality and social access to many of our client sites, we now want to make the option more generally available. Thus, we built a social commerce platform—we call it 4CsX—to facilitate a smooth back-and-forth integration. The CMS is comprehensive: it puts your Facebook community at your disposal wherever you want it; supports the upload of rich content to any component of your digital constellation; and unifies your digital commerce initiatives across the board.
We’re particularly proud of our latest 4CsX feature, The Like Bar—still in private beta. It’s a social-activation strip that can be added to the top or bottom of any ecommerce website to give the full spectrum of immersive social shopping. It not only enables visitors to the site to see who is there. But anyone can message anyone in real time, directly on the site.
We also capture such dimensions of social context as degrees of separation and level of expertise, and employ an algorithm to connect shoppers by relevance. Of further benefit, it promotes and features popular and relevant product. And so much more… In short, it turns any ecommerce site into an instant party, with you at the centre. As a retailer, you can use it to earn a rainstorm of ‘Likes.’
We don’t intend The Like Bar to replace Facebook. Quite the contrary. It becomes even more important as a primary trailhead and traffic driver. All check-ins and likes register on one’s wall as an open invitation to “come shop with me.” To find a friend, simply follow the posted link, like a breadcrumb straight to where they happen to be—your store. What we suggest is that the party needn’t end there. Your main hub is after all where you can best brand the engagement, and ultimately where it matters most.–AJH
Editor’s Note: dotbox Partner Ashley John Heather will be a featured presenter at “MESA Presents: Social Commerce” on Tuesday, March 15 in NYC.