14/02/2014 06:17 GMT | Updated 15/04/2014 06:59 BST

The Not-So-Secret Science of Social Commerce

When welcoming visitors to Green Man Gaming's headquarters, I've become fascinated by visitor's reactions when I introduce them to the latest member of our team; Chief Data Scientist, Paul Gesiak.

I've witnessed raised eyebrows, nods of approval, and many a curious stroking of chins greeting Paul, as his appointment at a specialist digital retailer seems to be an unusual move.

He is in fact, one of our most important appointments at Green Man Gaming as he's charged with helping us uncover insights in the wealth of data we have that would otherwise be missed. By analysing online behaviour that goes beyond just purchasing or browsing history, we're building predictive models and targeting mechanics, alongside developing and investing in enhanced community services, so we can better predict a customer's likely purchase propensity. Paul is our key to creating one of the gaming industry's largest social commerce eco-systems; the impact of which will be huge.

Combining social media and online communities to use in the context of e-commerce transactions, the social commerce market was valued by Gartner at $1 billion in 2012, and is set to rise to $4.6 billion this year. The face of retail is changing, and though we might have the road map, it's customers that are in the driving seat, and are helping to make social commerce a formidable market.

Traditional retailers would have several minutes in which to engage their customers, and could influence purchases with mood, lighting and point of sale promotion as part of the shopping experience. Businesses like Green Man Gaming were founded because we spotted the opportunities that a new digital retail landscape offers. With only seconds to capture a customer's attention, our focus is on customer behaviour and we've been actively finding out where the current and next generation of our core gamer audience live their lives online.

As many businesses continue to adopt and explore social media, the wisest of retailers will be those that do their research and can harness the power of the rich data they collect from their social networking sites to drive their digital strategies, helping them shift from e-commerce to a more powerful social commerce.

Heavy investment into time, resources, and technology to try and understand the social landscape and to better engage with online customers is crucial to businesses in the rapidly developing social commerce market; in the past 12 months alone, we've implemented over 1000 new features and improvements (big and small) to our innovative game-tracking social platform Playfire, based on understanding and feedback direct from the community. Modern online customers want choice and immediacy. It's this influential two-way dialogue with users, customers, observers, and partners that will help businesses deliver specialist, targeted, rewarding offers that reduces the cost of sale and the wastage through advanced targeting of competitive offers. Increasingly, businesses must be able to be efficient, pro-active and responsive - other key components to making social commerce work.

I believe data-driven customer modelling is the secret sauce of the next generation of digital retail, and Data Scientists like Paul will soon become the not-so-secret science behind the power of social commerce.