Not too long ago e-commerce transformed the way we evaluate and buy products. The ability to search for products from a vast selection, evaluate them based on their ratings and reviews left by other users, mostly strangers, of the products on the online e-commerce platform revolutionized the shopping and browsing habits. The advent of social media has brought about another big upheaval into this trend. Now, we take into account what our online “friends” or acquaintances are saying about those products. The power of our relationships and the higher trust we put on our online friends’ opinions has much bigger influence on our own view to the products we consume.
The social media has opened doors into gleaning into and sharing the attitude or opinions about the products of consumption much easily with our online social circle. We increasingly base on buying decisions on this information. This new revolution is termed as Social commerce. Social shopping (the buying decision based on social influence) and social sharing (information dissemination with our social circle) are two important aspect of social commerce.
There has been growing interest in the research community towards understanding how the trust towards the online friends and the social network influences our trust about the products being discussed. This paper examined how social media plays an important role in providing informational and emotional support into relationship building and how these eventually impact social shopping and social sharing behaviour.
What the authors found is that the commitment of an individual to maintain relationship with their social circle is positively reflected in their social shopping and sharing intentions as well. The highly positive opinions of their immediate or extended circles is likely to maximize their own positive opinion towards the products and their buying tendency. Also the higher trust towards their online friends increases the propensity of the people to engage and share their own opinions towards the products. This in turn boosts the social commerce activity on the social media. Further, the trust towards their online friends are not only limited to those friends, but those strong perceptions spillover to towards the community as well. As a result, the individuals are more likely to seek the products recommended by the communities of which their online friends are part of.
The online social support is manifested in two important aspects: informational support and emotional support. The informational support comprises of advice, guidance or useful information to help the individuals make rational choices. The informational support from the online friends obviously has positive impact on their social shopping and sharing tendency. However, the social circle has higher weight for emotional support. Observing the caring and loving attitude of their online friends towards the products encourages the individuals to develop similar affinities towards those products.
The most important finding of the paper is that relationship between individuals has the most bearing on their social shopping influence, whereas the trust in individual-community relationship is the best determinant of their social sharing tendencies.
 Consumers’ decisions in social commerce context: An empirical investigation http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016792361500144X
Rachel Botsman: The currency of the new economy is trust http://www.ted.com/talks/rachel_botsman_the_currency_of_the_new_economy_is_trust