In the past five years, social media has changed not just the way we interact, but the way we buy, ushering in a new form of eCommerce with widespread appeals across multiple demographics. Typically, these interactions have been a one-way street: business to consumer. But can the social aspects of eCommerce extend to business deals as well?
The continuing evolution of such technology means credit unions, CUSOs and other institutions may one day be reaching out through social commerce channels, not just for new membership, but for affordable partner or vendor relationships.
When tech consulting firm, Ajilitee, “offered $25,000 worth of consulting services for $12,500” via Groupon, they were doing more than just offering a crazy good deal, says FastCompany. They were helping to break a business to business barrier that, until recently, has eclipsed social media.
Ajilitee made the offer using Groupon Stores “a relatively new feature of the Groupon website where businesses can run deals whenever they want, online, via Groupon, without having to wait for an email to go out on their behalf.”
Today's eCommerce “translates into instantly available, comparable, and configurable products and services,” says Businessweek. “With price quotes, contract renewals, and comparisons available at the business buyers’ fingertips, B2B e-commerce opens up new opportunities for companies to initiate the buying process.” Social buying of products and services may be the next evolution of this model, especially for coopertives or institutions that contain multiple facets under one corporate umbrella.
Yet even current social commerce business users seem unsure of its potential. Ajilitee’s Diann Bilderback advises “We have seen an awful lot of interest from the media, which is asking the same question we are: whether these kinds of channels can be adapted to a B2B buying cycle. We've all seen how things begin in a consumer model, then migrate to a small business model, then eventually reach the enterprise level. We were just testing to see if we could accelerate that process."
Ecommerce “deals” and social buying would certainly attract attention, but the questions remains if it is the right kind of attention. While cost effective for many business models, some businesses advise social commerce in the consumer realm risks lessening the value of the service in buyer’s eyes, or even changing the purchase behavior of a typical buyer. These drawbacks may eventually carry over to the business to business realm of social commerce as well.
Financial institutions should stay abreast of the evolving role this technology may take in tomorrow’s business landscape, even if they are not yet comfortable fully utilizing social commerce in their own business strategy.