Social commerce encourages users of social networking sites to shop while socializing and for visitors of ecommerce websites to socialize while shopping. Since social commerce emerged as an alternative form of e-commerce, industry and academia have almost entirely focused their attentions on investigating how large enterprises are approaching this new opportunity with little attention on smaller enterprises. In this paper, we begin to fill this gap and report on how smaller enterprises are using social commerce. Our contribution was achieved through case studies and analysis of data associated with businesses conducting commercial activities on a popular social networking site, Instagram. The premise of our research is that by using Instagram posts (tagged with for example #forsale) we could identify smaller enterprises and in particular microenterprises conducting social commerce. This premise was proven to be true. There are four main conclusions from our research. (1) Microenterprises are using two main approaches (traditional and `simple') to social commerce on Instagram. Enterprises with e-commerce websites use the traditional approach which involves directing Instagram users to their websites and this is the same route taken by larger enterprises. (2) Microenterprises without an e-commerce website are taking a `simple' approach to social commerce which means in practice that social commerce is conducted using systems and services provided by Instagram and other social networking and communication applications. In other words, these small businesses are conducting e-commerce by accessing the systems of others with no ownership or associated costs to them. (3) Analysis of Instagram data revealed that the number of users and their posts (tagged with #forsale) on Instagram has steadily risen each year since the first appearance of hash tagged posts in November 2010. Finally, (4) our research conclusions (1) to (3) were confirmed (with some interesting differences) for businesses using both English and Arabic language on Instagram and this confirms that our research findings are of a global phenomenon. The paper concludes with proposals on how our initial findings can be taken forward to reveal more on how microenterprises are exploiting social networking sites for commerce.
- social media networks
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- School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences - Senior Lecturer