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November 3 , 2009

Be where the customers hang out online
Social networks key for online retailers

Forward-thinking retailers want to bring their web stores to the environments where their customers like to spend time. That’s why almost three-quarters of the merchants in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide have a presence on at least one of the major social networks or social shopping sites.

The leading destination was Facebook, where 57% of these Web retailers either have a page or advertise. Facebook has become the preferred social network for marketers by adding interactive features that enable communication between brands and their fans.

And even though surveys find that people join social networks mainly to communicate with friends, an increasing amount of that socializing relates to sharing product and brand opinions. As people spend more time on social networks, retailers feel pressure to be there as well, and retail Websites are bolstering their social commerce features.

For example, Facebook Connect and other tools have emerged that enable shoppers to bring their friends along on a shopping session for feedback.

“Retailers need to place their virtual storefronts where their customers congregate,” said Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer e-commerce senior analyst and author of the report, “Social Commerce on Facebook, Twitter and Retail Sites.”

“This implies the nature of e-commerce is shifting from a transactional experience to a social one,” Mr. Grau said.

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