Commersations Resource Center

Bringing the Like, Want and Own to the GSI Commerce platform

Earlier this month, eBay Inc. made some big news from Innovate when it announced plans to integrate Facebook’s Open Graph into its commerce platforms – including GSI Commerce.

Facebook + GSI Commerce

The release stated:

eBay Inc. also plans to integrate Open Graph functionality into its GSI business unit’s Social Media Services framework. This will enable large merchants worldwide to offer their customers similar ways to connect with their friends through shopping, using GSI’s existing Open Graph-enabled content management system. GSI’s commerce platform supports more than 180 retailers in the U.S. and globally, including many leading national brands.

Like my colleague Richard Brewer-Hay, chief blogger for eBay Inc., I have watched eBay move its community-based marketplace into today’s social web over the last couple of years – and now, we’re doing the same at GSI. After Innovate last week, I was anxious to catch up with some of the core team behind GSI’s Social Media Services to learn more about what it all means.

This week I spoke with Marty Armstrong, head of GSI’s corporate partnerships & strategic alliances, Victor Colon, director of software engineering and Nick Magilton, senior product manager – three people on the team working on this offering within GSI. In three quick conversations I learned a lot but here are the two big takeaways:

  • GSI has worked with Facebook to leverage the Open Graph 1.0 to enable the “Like” and “Like and Send” functions on its ecommerce platform, which has been deployed for numerous clients in the past few months.
  • GSI has plans to continue to build its Social Media Services framework in order to support future capabilities from Facebook, including Open Graph 2.0 features announced at F8 last month, as well as those offered from various other social media platforms, such as Twitter, YouTube and Google+.

While there’s clearly more to come on this front, I went a bit deeper on this with Marty.

As the social media guy at GSI, I have to ask what is ‘Social Media Services’?
The Social Media Services framework is a homegrown initiative for GSI to more closely work with the major social media platforms in the industry, and we are very excited about that opportunity and what it could mean for our clients. Right now, Victor and Nick are working with the team in our ecommerce technology group on this – and my role is to help manage the relationship with Facebook, as well as other social media companies in the future, then work with our team here on a strategy, while ensuring we align with eBay on a broader social initiative going forward.

Big picture, this reflects the vision GSI has to enable social functionality on our client websites through a standard framework – which is our platform and infrastructure. This expands our work to deploy complementary social features like product ratings and reviews from third-party partners, such as PowerReviews and Bazaarvoice.

You realize that announcement got a lot of play in the media last week?
It’s Facebook and eBay, afterall. It was great to see – but I think a key point to understand is that a lot goes into what we have to build and design for social functions to work within an enterprise level ecommerce platform. The considerations for doing that include implications on throughput, data, performance, advanced marketing analytics, multi-channel, and security at a level that smaller stores don’t necessarily have to face.

I read that new Open Graph 2.0 features are coming “soon” to GSI Commerce clients, how soon is soon?
We’ve already installed the key Open Graph 1.0 functionality – which is the “Like” button – into the framework and a number of clients are now utilizing that functionality. As far as Open Graph 2.0 that Facebook just announced in September – which is getting the “Want” and “Own” functions – it will take more time to fully understand all of its capabilities but you can expect that GSI will continue to be a leader in this space.

What does this mean for GSI Commerce clients overall?
A few things. Engaging in social media activity such as reviewing, tweeting or liking is becoming the new normal for how consumers are spending their time on line – so enabling these functions on our clients’ web stores means improving the site experience to be more in line with today’s consumer behavior. The goal is to give our clients greater control over the channel – whether it’s Facebook or Google+ – while taking advantage of our efforts to develop the best approach for e-commerce. And because this framework is built into our platform, integrated within our CMS tools, this will streamline the process for our clients and future prospects to make use of the functionality.

I’d imagine that the more engaging the site the more data our clients can capture, right?
Despite the wide scale adoption of social networks and tools by consumers, we are still in its infancy. Service providers like GSI are still really learning how various applications of social functionality may or may not elicit the desired result or knowing the social value of a user in terms of their influence. As with just about any new site feature or marketing channel, there are various factors that impact the success one will have. That said, is there any question that this is the way people engage and make decisions online? As for data – by engaging the consumer more deeply our clients will eventually be able to capture more intelligence about what they want and like -- and therefore be in a better position to engage, merchandise, market, promote and serve them over the long haul. When you take into account the size of companies we work with combined with the huge traffic on social networks, that’s a lot of information we can help our clients build strategy around.

Given how it is I make a living as a blogger and on social media, it’s hard not to think what a boon the additional features of Facebook’s new Open Graph will be to retailers. Then I look around my living room at the furniture and the motorcycle apparel strewn on it and realize I bought them online and at retail – all after watching a YouTube video or reading comments on a product review and realize that this way of shopping socially is already a big deal.

And based on this Web 2.0 interview eBay CEO John Donahoe agrees.

That's good enough for me.

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