Before the pandemic struck we Brits would spend around £5bn a year in High Street coffee shop chains, but for obvious reasons their sales have plummeted over the course of three lockdowns. 

Nevertheless our desire for caffeine remains and some small, independent companies have grabbed the opportunity to squeeze into the gap in the market - more on that later!

If you're in the business of selling stuff having your product on Amazon's 'Buy Box' is - to put it mildly - a good thing, isn't it?

I've previously written about how reliant some companies have become on the 'Amazon' marketplace drug, and for many suppliers to certain sectors (retail) looking to go direct to the consumers (D2C) it's certainly one route to market.

One of the key reasons brands have been keen to get themselves onto marketplaces like Amazon, Alibaba and others is based on the overly simplified view that it's more efficient when building your business to "go where the customer is already at". Mainly because you don't have to invest heavily into the hard part which is 'customer recruitment' so you go for the 'transactional' strategy over the relationship one.

With literally millions of people frequenting these platforms we have witnessed all manner of brands, retailers, and manufacturers align the 'selling' opportunity in order to gain access to established audiences.

At no time in retailing history has consumer inertia been so much in the consumers favour. Today your website is probably one of the last places the consumer will go to look at products and services and find out who you really are. 

The reality is that the pace of change, opportunities and dynamics associated with the internet were for many retailers largely ignored other than those that bolted on a me too website and stayed in protectionist mode around the store portfolio. 

Today I'm seeing the same mindset associated with the eCommerce website.

Back to that 'coffee' story;

James King, 28, used to work as a barista for a coffee chain in Brighton, but on 1 March 2020 he took the plunge of quitting to run his first coffee van. Not great timing - or so he thought at first.

The small, regular clientele he'd found outside his local train station quickly dwindled after the first lockdown. He wasn't eligible for any government financial support because he was a newly registered business.

Rather than pack it in, he decided to take his Whistle Coffee van on a tour of the community hospitals in Brighton, offering free hot drinks to NHS workers. He originally subsidised this with a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign, but soon suppliers donated stock for free.

His fledgling business managed to weather 2020 and in gratitude the NHS offered him a regular pitch at Brighton General Hospital.

In summary, just like those retailers and brands that opted to 'go where the customers are' on marketplaces James decided to go where his coffee customers were before, during, and most definitely post lockdown.

Today's consumers are on all manner of free to use, free to access social networks.

'Social Selling' (crap name BTW) is really about understanding the consumer buying journey and how you can use it to provide your consumer with sufficient information on their terms about you, your company and what it does early enough in the 'intent' stage of the buying journey.

To do this well requires you to be social, authentic, inform, educate, listen, all whilst connecting to and building a like minded tribe, and the last thing you do is try to sell upfront - scary stuff indeed.

If you're a big brand retailer or a current supplier into that sector you might fall into the foolish mindset of thinking 'so what'?

Just as millions of businesses flocked onto 'Bezo's baby' known as 'Amazon, social commerce if done right will allow you to wean yourself off the mighty Amazon and focus on building an authentic and lasting relationship with consumers around the world.