Social commerce refers to the use of social media tools to engage customers and gain profitable benefits. For example, Amazon integrates social commerce on its platform. Thus, it allows customers to comment in the platform and link to integrated social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Facebook integrates social commerce to allow customers to connect with businesses and interact with peer customers. As a result, I see the importance of social commerce in serving as a business strategy designed to achieve business goals through customer engagement.
In particular, consumers may play dual roles of seeking user-generated information and contributing information in social commerce. This indicates that user-generated content could have a great impact on consumer behavior. Thus, it can lead to profitable business outcomes. In general, user-generated content comes in different forms including customer ratings and reviews, user recommendations and referrals, and social advertising.
Among the popular social networking sites, I have used Facebook Fan Page the most. It helps me connect with my favorite brands, interact with other customers, and keep up-to-date with the brand. As a researcher, it is valuable to keep up-to-date on cutting-edge social commerce phenomena. In this post I will elaborate on the dual roles of customers in social commerce.
Seeking User-Generated Content
My online shopping decisions and experiences have improved by using social commerce. I cannot count how many times I sought user-generated content to assist with my purchasing decisions. User-generated content is an invaluable resource for product evaluation. It usually reflects the quality of a brand or product based on customers’ actual observations and usage experiences. Thus, it is more helpful than brand-generated content. Above all, these features help customers make informed purchasing decisions.
Given the importance of user-generated content in driving consumer purchases, many businesses strive to improve customers’ perceived value of user-generated content. I have found that there are three primary types of customer-perceived value: utilitarian, hedonic, and perceived social value. First, user-generated content creates utilitarian value. It does this by covering product-related information such as product features and offerings and assessments of products. Second, it creates hedonic value by covering emotion-related information that creates enjoyment. Third, it creates social value through social interaction among customers in social commerce. In conclusion, these are three primary values that businesses may want to create for their customers because they affect customers’ perceptions of a brand or product and their purchases.
Contributing User-Generated Content
I have found that customers play the role of information contributors in social commerce. For example, I write reviews after purchasing on Amazon, and I recommend products to my social media contacts. As a contributor, customers produce product or brand-related information based on their assessment of products. They also share usage experiences about a brand or product. Therefor, it is clear that contributing shopping-related information can help businesses spread the word and generate brand awareness. In such a scenario, customers are generating values for businesses based on social commerce information-sharing activities.
In other words, businesses may extract values from customers through encouraging them to generate content in social commerce. There are two types of values: direct and indirect values. Direct benefits can be captured by consumers’ purchase behaviors. Indirect benefits include referral and word of mouth activities and are characterized by requesting and sharing commercial information in social commerce. Both types of values are vital for companies to sustain their businesses.
The dual roles of customers tell how businesses can create values for and extract values from customers at the core of user-generated content. Acquiring an understanding of customers’ dual roles is a matter of practical importance. Businesses are taking advantage of social commerce to develop innovative strategies.
Social Support and User-Generated Content
The above discussion illustrates how consumers seek information and what information they share in social commerce. In this paragraph, I would like to elaborate on the nature of user-generated content in social commerce. User-generated content can feature an informational or an emotional tone. It can thus facilitate social support, which has been identified as a key component that distinguishes social commerce from a traditional e-business. Social support can not only affect consumer behavior but enhance the relationships between customers and businesses.
Social support comes in two forms: informational support and emotional support. Informational support comes in the form of sharing shopping-related information, referrals, and recommendations. Emotional support comes in the form of sharing individual emotion or mood states or expressing concerns related to online shopping. In other words, consumers may obtain social support mainly based on the nature of the content: knowledge-featured content for informational support and emotion-featured content for emotional support.
Social commerce can help sustain businesses at the core of user-generated content. By understanding the dual roles of customers in seeking and contribution, user-generated content can offer insights into the implementation of social commerce in business. In addition, social support featured in user-generated content should be given attention.
Philip J. Gensler Professor of Computer Information Systems
Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems