Social commerce, sometimes abbreviated as “s-ecommerce,” is a term often used to describe new online retail models or marketing strategies that incorporate established social networks and/or peer-to-peer communication to drive sales.

Several well-known social commerce sites predate the popular rise of social networks by more than half a decade. eBay, a peer-to-peer selling platform founded in 1995, is one of them. Epilogue, a 13-year-old site that allows users to post, discuss and sell their own fantasy and sci-fi art, is another.

Today, social commerce denotes a wide range of shopping, recommending and selling behaviors.

Types of Social Commerce

  • 1. Peer-to-peer sales platforms (eBay, Etsy, Amazon Marketplace): Community-based marketplaces, or bazaars, where individuals communicate and sell directly to other individuals.
  • 2. Social network-driven sales (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter): Sales driven by referrals from established social networks, or take place on the networks themselves (i.e., through a “shop” tab on Facebook).
  • 3. Group buying (Groupon, LivingSocial). Products and services offered at a reduced rate if enough buyers agree to make the purchase.
  • 4. Peer recommendations (Amazon, Yelp, JustBoughtIt): Sites that aggregate product or service reviews, recommend products based on others’ purchasing history (i.e. “Others who bought item x also bought item y,” as seen on Amazon), and/or reward individuals for sharing products and purchases with friends through social networks.
  • 5. User-curated shopping (The Fancy, Lyst, Svpply): Shopping-focused sites where users create and share lists of products and services for others to shop from.
  • 6. Participatory commerce (Threadless, Kickstarter, CutOnYourBias): Consumers become involved directly in the production process through voting, funding and collaboratively designing products.
  • 7. Social shopping (Motilo, Fashism, GoTryItOn). Sites that attempt to replicate shopping offline with friends by including chat and forum features for exchanging advice and opinions.