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Internet Retailing 2011 Keynote speakers: When social meets retail

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Social commerce and what it means for retailers was a central theme for the keynote speakers at today’s Internet Retailing 2011.

For all of our speakers, the very real effect of social networks and their ability to amplify a retailer or brand’s message was of key importance when considering how retail would develop in the future.

Facebook’s head of commerce partnerships Gavin Sathianathan said that while growing the number of fans who follow a brand was important to retailers, the real opportunity for them was in talking to the friends of those fans. “The best way to do that is by word of mouth recommendation to friends,” he said. Opportunities for retailers to use Facebook to talk to existing and potential customers include sponsoring stories in individuals’ news feeds that can then be broadcast to their network, while brands can also feature in the new Timeline feature, which allows individuals to capture key moments form their lives.

For eBay, Miriam Lahage, global head of fashion brand, said engaging with social media was a crucial part of a commerce 3.0 model that also includes mobile, local and digital media in allowing consumers to buy anywhere, anyhow and anytime. “People are spending more time connecting with each other online: it’s just another excuse to be shopping,” she said. All of this, she said, comes as “the very nature of shopping is changing around us. The way that customers want to shop is changing and we need to change with it.”

Mark Hodgkinson, incoming ecommerce and marketing director at HMV, said: “Entertainment is a social experience and so social commerce should be a big opportunity for us.”

The three speakers opened a day at which close to 500 conference delegates are spending time considering the future of online retail. The conference is Internet Retailing’s sixth annual event and speakers come from on and offline retailers including Air Asia.com, Overstock.com, Majestic Wine, Lakeland, Thomas Pink, JD Williams and Naked Wines.

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