We always knew commerce was social. Now the market is catching up.
Yesterday, Microsoft announced plans to broaden its use of Facebook data in its Bing search engine results. Since October, the site has been displaying which restaurants, movies or news stories were liked by Facebook friends; what’s new is the plan to also display friends who live nearby, books who friends have liked on Amazon, and even allow consumers to compare trips with Facebook friends and get their suggestions. The integration – as planned – looks slick.
Our legacy in friend referral programs underscores the value that this integration provides. Friends have long looked to one another to make purchasing and travel decisions. Put another way: according to Chad Stoller, executive vice president of digital strategy at advertising agency BBDO North America, “There’s a reason teenage girls shop in packs in the mall.” Earlier this year, digital consultancy Razorfish released a study on customer engagement; among the findings were that word of mouth remains one of the most important ways brands can engage with consumers. That’s why our programs have worked: a brand that is referred by a friend typically attains a 25% higher conversion than if referred by another source (print ad, company email, etc.).
What the penetration of social networks (particularly Facebook) has done is make this human need for personal endorsements more transparent and accessible. The Bing-Facebook integration will take referrals to entirely new levels by making them increasingly accessible and actionable via search, opening up a new dimension of access for referrals.
Fueling all of this potential, of course, is the actual referral activity. Brands that activate their customers to refer their products and services will be best positioned to capitalize off of the evolving social commerce and search landscape.