I've thought this for a long time but never really articulated it publicly until the Q&A session at ad:tech last week.
There are a ton of social services that sit on top of the world of e-commerce and allow users to curate items they like and may want to buy in the future. These experiences can be highly social. And there are services that allow for transacting and payment inside of large social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. They bring commerce to social platforms. This entire category of services is called Social Commerce.
I have not been particularly bullish on these services because I think social commerce is most naturally e-commerce with a well implemented social layer built natively into the commerce platform. When you look at conversion rates in e-commerce broadly what you see again and again is that the more friction and overhead there is between discovery and transaction, the lower the conversion rate. Something as simple as logging into a commerce platform to complete a transaction can lower converstion rates by an order of magnitude.
Conversion rates are critical. They tell you what systems perform best for the end user. When a system converts north of 5% of users visits to a transaction, it is working extremely well for the end user. When a system converts 0.1% of user visits to a transaction, it doesn't work as well for the end user.
When a retailer or e-commerce service implements a highly social layer into their service with hooks into the major social platforms, the conversion rates can be significant. I have seen this first hand. This is an indication that users enjoy and benefit from social commerce when it is built into a native e-commerce service.
When users start in a social system that is divorced from the e-commerce platform, I believe the conversion rates are significantly lower, often by an order of magnitude or more. This, to me, suggests that the overhead of multiple systems reduces the effectiveness of the experience for users and is suboptimal.
So this is the thinking that led me to say what I said on stage at ad:tech this past week. I've felt this way for a long time and I am glad that I got the question and had an opportunity to address this issue publicly. I am eager to hear the discussion of this issue in the comments.