By John Egan

It seems that Amazon.com permeates nearly every facet of e-commerce. The newest entrant in the Amazon orbit: social commerce.

In July, Amazon rolled out an Instagram- and Pinterest-like social commerce tool, Spark, to U.S. consumers. According to TechCrunch, users of Spark “are encouraged to post stories, ideas and images of products they love, which others can react to with comments and ‘smiles’ — Amazon’s own version of the Like or Favorite button.”

As TechCrunch explains, Amazon Spark is designed to “shift some of the social activity around products taking place off-site back to Amazon, where product inspiration can translate directly into purchases with a click of a button.”

Matt Britton, CEO of influencer marketing platform Crowdtap, told The Motley Fool website that he thinks Amazon Spark will fill an e-commerce void left by Pinterest and will be popular will Pinterest users. “While Pinterest built a social network around products, it did not have the retail interface and inventory that Amazon does to launch a successful e-commerce operation,” The Motley Fool says.

At DMA’s &THEN marketing conference Oct. 8-10 in New Orleans, “The Future of Social Commerce” will explore the future of social commerce across platforms like Spark, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other social commerce platforms. The session will include Jason Goldberg from SapientRazorfish, Jarvis Bowers from Holland America and Laura Joukovski from TechStyle.

“Traditional in-store retailing is popular across the world. However, social commerce has gained considerable traction in the last few years. The global social commerce market is competitive and puts [up] high barriers for new entrants,” according to market research company ReportLinker.

But new and old entrants, whether they’re giants (like Amazon) or startups, recognize the value of knocking down those barriers and diving into the social commerce market.

In a 2016 survey by Sumo Heavy Industries, 45 percent of U.S. consumers said social media influences their buying decisions. However, just 18 percent of consumers said they had made a purchase directly through a social media site.

“Social media might not yet be a top driver of online transactions, but we can certainly expect it to grow,” says Sumo Heavy Industries, which specializes in digital commerce strategy, consulting and design.

What’s holding back that growth among consumers? Sumo Heavy Industries offers several reasons based on its survey results, including:

  • 76 percent cited security, such as credit card information, as the No. 1 deterrent.
  • 65 percent said they’re worried about privacy, as they don’t want their personal information or shopping history being exposed.
  • 64 percent said they’re unsure whether they’ve made a valid purchase when shopping via social media.

In 2015, Invesp reported 5 percent of online retail revenue came from social media — a number that surely has increased since then. Two years ago, social commerce accounted for $14 billion in revenue in the U.S., according to Invesp, which specializes in conversion rate optimization.

At that time, Zappos garnered the most traffic from social media, Invesp says, followed by Fab.com, Nomorerack.com, Victoria’s Secret and Nordstrom.

Of course, it remains to be seen how Amazon Spark will affect social commerce, which The Motley Fool declares is “at a tipping point.” The website points out that Amazon’s goal isn’t to build a foundation of hundreds of millions of Spark users.

“Spark likely won’t have a measurable effect on Amazon’s sales or its bottom line, but social media is a huge untapped opportunity for the company, and entering it with platforms like Spark … is a smart way to leverage its reputation for customer satisfaction,” The Motley Fool says.

This article is brought to you by &THEN, DMA’s annual event. Click here to join the leaders of the marketing community and explore how data transforms marketing in New Orleans, October 8-10. Save over $300 when you register online.