Social commerce is poised to race past E-commerce, and at the wheel is the high-octane world of mobile. If you’re not a leader or you’re not positioning yourself as one, you will be left behind.

Can We Talk?

When I started in the retail business with a flower shop in Manhattan decades ago, most of my customers dropped in for a quick cup of coffee and to chat about what was going on in their lives, with their loved ones, and within the community.

Those conversations are now happening on social mediums. More than 70 percent of Internet users in the U.S. engage on social platforms and tools, according to a recent Pew study. In addition, more than 40 percent of this engagement is happening on mobile devices.

But in midst of this change from serving the 35 customers then who were my loyal shoppers at my first store to more than 35 million customers today across our floral and food brands, something has remained constant--it’s still all about relationships.

The difference is that this disruptive evolution is allowing us to keep building these relationships at a scale never seen before.

Mobile drives social.

Mobile devices have become the remote controls of our lives and the focal point of social commerce. It creates opportunities for businesses by encouraging customers to expand every conversation to their personal networks.

According to a June 2013 research report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF), U.S. mobile commerce grew 24 percent between the second quarters of 2012 and 2013. And in the second quarter of 2013, "m-commerce" dollars totaled $4.7 billion. NRF’s report says that during the 2013 second quarter, 57 percent of smartphone users visited a retailer’s website or used their app while in the retailer’s brick-and-mortar location. And 17 percent used their smartphones to take a photo of a product in-store and share it with their social networks.  

Here are the social-commerce trends to watch.

Molding today’s retail environment are trends that center around user-curated, shopping-focused destinations such as The Find, Lyst, Svpply, and Wanelo. With so many available retail choices, consumers are looking for ways to vet through product offerings and narrow down their options based on valued customer opinions and experience. On these sites, users create and share lists of products and services for others to shop from. Imagine millions of people sharing a list of your products, and you can see the potential.

We’re also watching closely the trend of participatory commerce, involving companies such as Threadless, Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Using these sites, consumers become part of the production process through voting, funding, and collaboratively designing products. Clearly the DIY movement had a hand building up awareness and acceptance of from-scratch products, but it’s also clear that people want to be connected to the products they buy and to the people they buy them from. By supporting entrepreneurs and helping them out, they’re creating personal relationships that matter to them. And it’s becoming abundantly obvious that people want relationships to be part of their purchases; there’s a huge portion of the consumer base that wants to avoid cookie-cutter products and support small-scale products and projects and the people who think them up.