Social media has grown to become a serious tool in a merchant’s marketing arsenal. Sites like Shopwiki.com, Thisnext.com and others provide excellent opportunities for merchants to gain favorable reviews and referrals, and other social networking sites like Del.icio.us, Reddit.com, Myspace.com and Facebook.com provide the opportunity for brand exposure.
However, perhaps the greatest social media advantage to merchants is still emerging — the ecommerce widget.
A widget is an application that can be embedded into a web-based application, such as a blog or a social network, though anything that is html-based. For ecommerce, a widget could embed a shopping cart, for example.
Widgets are a tool for merchants to take their web store across the online community, placing products where like-minded communities are gathered. So far, the music and book industry has embraced widget technology via companies like Goodstorm.com and Random House. According to Goodstorm.com, its MeCommerce widget enables its affiliates to sell CDs, DVDs and books right on their own website or blog.
Although general ecommerce widget technology is not yet perfected and only limited functionality and feature sets are available, there are a number of options worth looking into.
One of these options is being offered (in beta form) from PayPal Labs. It’s called PayPal Storefront Widget and it allows any web merchant to offer the secure PayPal payment transaction service by embedding the widget onto publisher sites. Although Storefront Widget is not completely customizable, it does make ecommerce transactions easier for both buyers and sellers. Like standard ecommerce sites, the widget includes a product image, a detailed product page, an embedded shopping cart, and explanations of the merchant’s shipping and assurance policies. Transaction processing occurs via PayPal in, currently, U.S. dollars.
Two other ecommerce widgets include Shopit.com and Cartfly.com. Both allow a web merchant to customize its shopping widget to fit its look and style. Both also offer free accounts and are relatively quick to setup.
This is only the beginning of a potentially powerful new way for web merchants to bring their goods and services out into the community, versus attempting to bring the community to the web store. Widgets also present a tremendous opportunity for smaller, niche ecommerce marketers to out-flank bigger brands and gain greater exposure. Although it is too early to gauge the purchasing effectiveness from ecommerce widgets across all industries, the concept has significant ramifications and is worth testing in 2008.