There are two cupcake places in my neighborhood. One, Sweet Elizabeth’s, has been there for a couple of years. The other one, Ndulge, perhaps 200 yards away, is part of a larger retail chain and it opened within the past year. The other day my son and I stopped for cupcakes, and we went to Sweet Elizabeth’s. I pointed out the other shop as we walked past, and my son asked, “Mom, why did we choose Sweet Elizabeth’s?”

The reason, I told him, is because the first time I went to Sweet Elizabeth’s, I met the owner and had a great conversation with her. That brief chat sealed my loyalty, despite the fact that there is stiff competition just down the street. I don’t even know what the cupcakes at Ndulge taste like, nor am I likely to go in and find out.

Think about it. Like me, you stop at the cupcake place or the coffee shop and have a quick chat with the woman at the counter. Same thing at the dry cleaner. Your loyalty is made or broken in these interactions.

All of our small real life encounters have an equal version in the form of social media and online retail. And ecommerce is getting up to speed. Who are the leaders in ecommerce right now, and how are they growing?

A newly released report from Internet Retailer finds that more than ever, social and ecommerce are inextricably linked. Success in the realm of online retail is fueled by daily attention to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and related sites.

The 2014 Social Media 500 Report is a glimpse into the activities of CMOs across verticals. The top five hundred retailers, some pure ecommerce, and others with both a brick and mortar as well as an online presence, are getting wise to the power of social sharing. Marketing departments are hitting social in two ways: advertising and interactions with consumers. For example, in 2013 Office Depot increased ad spend on social networks by 150%. Spending on social ads by 40 retailers that supplied data to Internet Retailer increased 400% from 2012 to 2013.

The report finds that monthly referral traffic to e-commerce sites from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube increased 42% in 2013 to 51.5 million monthly unique visitors from 36.3 million.

Turns out that smaller, newer merchants dominate the top ranks of the top 500 brands in the report. That makes a lot of sense, when you consider that many of these retailers have to find a way around the massive retail river that is Amazon.com.

Say you are a less well-known retailer like Ndulge or Sweet Elizabeth’s. You must be a lot more sensitive to the relationship you are building with your customers. And if your customers are online, that’s where you need to be.

Because I like Sweet Elizabeth’s, I also like the store on Facebook. And that’s where I found out that they recently received The Couple’s Choice Award on WeddingWire for its wedding cakes. The announcement reinforces my choice, and so it goes, round and round, strengthening the sweet bond. Don’t make me get on a scale. And don’t tell my trainer.