Soldsie CEO Chris Bennett: Why all shopping should be a social

Chris Bennett

Retailers are looking for ways to monetize social networking and Soldsie, the world's first social shopping service, has been helping retailers do just that on Facebook and Instagram since 2012.

Soldsie partners with retailers and brands to get their products in front of shoppers in social feeds. "We help retailers activate their social communities and to go where their customers already are," explained Chris Bennett, CEO and co-founder of Soldsie.

The Soldsie experience begins when a retailer posts a product photo along with its price and available quantity. Shoppers comment with the word "sold," and continue browsing their news feed uninterrupted. Soldsie takes care of everything else in the background, from inventory management to payment processing. In the meantime, the original product posting builds momentum with a broader audience.

Soldsie has a 70 percent cart completion rate, compared to 30 percent for traditional shopping carts. Social selling creates a sense of urgency that is just not found in traditional e-commerce environments and, with millennials making up a growing portion of the consumer space, buying through social media will grow.

FierceRetail spoke with Bennett to learn more about why he believes social shopping is more effective for retailers, a better experience for purchasers, and the future of e-commerce.

FierceRetail: What is Soldsie's role in the e-commerce world?

Chris Bennett: Social commerce is the next frontier for retailers, as social networks become a new sales channel. Most of our customers understand that social networks are an untapped gold mine; for them, it's just a matter of learning how to turn it on. In our eyes, comment selling is a seamless shopping experience, and an existing behavior that customers were willing to explore. Soldsie gives retailers of all sizes the tools they need to start selling socially across multiple platforms. We've built an end-to-end platform that makes it easy for both retailers and customers to use Soldsie.

FierceRetail: You allow retailers to partner with Facebook or Instagram. Why these two platforms?

Chris Bennett: Today, more than 1,500 stores use Soldsie to sell on Facebook and Instagram. Both platforms are fantastic selling tools and provide an optimal social shopping environment. They help retailers merchandise goods with media-rich posts, and lend themselves to more opportunistic and episodic buying. We are seeing substantial traction on both platforms, and the vast majority of our customers understand the importance of supporting both.

We also plan to support two more social networks in the next year. We have always envisioned Soldsie as being truly cross-platform, and we're committed to being everywhere social shopping needs and wants to be.

FierceRetail: What is the added value for Facebook and Instagram in partnering with you?

Chris Bennett: Where Facebook and Instagram benefit from comment selling is seeing an active and engaged community from both retailers and their customers. Shoppers can now engage in offers to capture opportunities directly within their news feed. Comment selling creates a sense of urgency that wasn't there before.

Social shopping has a viral coefficient inherently built in that changes how people interact.

FierceRetail: Why do retailers need to be on social networks?

Chris Bennett: Retailers need to be where their customers are. One benefit of social selling is that retailers can more easily identify who their customers are and engage with them. Customers and retailers alike can create a more personalized shopping experience compared to a traditional e-commerce platform.

FierceRetail: What is holding back more retailers from selling directly on social networks?

Chris Bennett: There was no elegant solution to facilitate social shopping before Soldsie, and no one was actually buying on Facebook. Everything prior was a failed attempt to embed a website into a Facebook page. These "stores" looked pretty, but they didn't work.

We took the metaphor of comment selling, built software around it, and then gave it to the rest of the market.

Social shopping and selling is more episodic and more opportunistic, which brings different challenges from traditional e-commerce. It's a wholly new activity separate from browsing an e-catalog and changes the role of key business functions.

FierceRetail: How is Soldsie adapting and planning for the future of e-commerce?

Chris Bennett: We think that this will become an everyday activity for consumers, and a no-brainer for businesses everywhere. Commerce is accelerating and customers are chasing after near-instant gratification experiences.

Shopping will be more fun and exciting. We're used to finding out about events, shows and more from friends on social media. In a few years, we will learn about and purchase new products this way, too. There are great long-term advantages in social shopping, and we are just starting to scratch the surface of what's possible.

Ultimately, we want everyone to ditch the cart, and enjoy a better social shopping experience. Many brands, big and small, will eventually look at social as their primary. It will be the center of e-commerce strategy, not just an add-on or an experiment.

Social selling is the future of e-commerce. It will transform key business functions such as sales strategies, social media strategies and community management. All of this requires an investment of both time and money, but would reduce dependency on advertising. Social selling, if executed properly, could transform social media from a cost center into a profit center.

A serial entrepreneur, Chris is passionate about social change and innovation. His last startup, LiquidBooks, was a success at the University of Pennsylvania campus. In the Bay Area, Chris is involved with 500 Startups and Black Founders. Chris holds a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.