Is social commerce just a transaction or are brands creating experiences.
Ask a young person with a smartphone to order a pizza or takeaway. The chances are they won’t turn on their PC; they might look for a ragged favourite menu stapled to their kitchen wall or they may simply and intuitively pull out their smartphone and search. In a similar vein whilst looking to buy a printer in a large store, I saw people pulling out their smartphones and checking prices online and yes I did it to; the store in question said they would match any price (why not then). The mobile (smartphone) is transforming how we interact offline whether that is searching for services, brands or prices – we do it when we want, wherever we are. It is our access point to our social networks; our key communication tool. If we add into this mix check-ins e.g. Facebook, ShopKick we can see how our online moments intersect with offline. Social commerce is not just a Facebook store or Facebook Open Graph integrated into a website; it is the influences upon our buying decisions. Pre-sales: e.g. search, reviews, comments, likes At the point of sale: e.g. offers, coupons, group buying Post sale: e.g. sharing, commenting, rating People are no longer shackled by access to the internet via a PC, it can be in the moment – it is real time interactions that will become increasingly important providing more relevance than before. What will change this significantly is the integration and convenience of being able to pay using the mobile phone:
Looking at the Numbers
Here are some of the figures that demonstrate the continued growth of online: The research firm Forrester projects online retailsales to increase to almost $250 billion by 2014. That’s a big number, but still a small piece of the retail pie at just 8% of U.S. sales. Here are some interesting inforgraphics that support the changing dynamic of the social customer:
- Infographic illustrating the trend in online retail sales
- An infographic on the development of Social Commerce in 2010
- The evolution of social CRM infographic
Blending the Offline and Online World
I’m fascinated by the impact of emerging technologies and how they influence economic variables across the media, marketing, information and entertainment ecosystem. In particular it is how the online and offline experience will integrate as brands seek to differentiate themselves. If we take a look at retail we can see that at the moment it has several persistent problems: the high cost of attracting visitors, the low probability that they become buyers and the difficulty of getting them to come back. Sociable e-commerce offers potential solutions to all of them. So both brands and retailers must integrate their touch points to access customers. Social business tools create experiences It is no longer about channels; it is about the customer life cycle across everywhere a brand touches them. This involves orchestrating the customer relationship across touch points, not channels. It is mobile though that will bridge the gap between online and offline experiences, challenging marketers to connect the dots through creative solutions that match consumers’ mobile consumption habits. As brands give birth to creative ways to engage people their responses and conversations will also change how engage, brands will behave more like people and consumers will more than ever assess brands as they would people. Is it Just about Facebook? Facebook has extended its reach beyond the platform so that websites can integrate Facebooks Open Graph e.g. the ‘Like’ and ‘Send’ buttons. Facebook’s business functionality will continue to evolve. Eventually, social elements will cross each function of business. Those businesses that are early to explore these methods will dominate what could become the largest market place: Facebook. This illustration from Horizon Studios demonstrates the dimensions of Facebook commerce Social Commerce As e-commerce retailers continue to pop-up and online shopping becomes even more prominent, people will increasingly become more and more comfortable sharing transactional items like clothing, daily deals, books, and electronics as more of their purchasing decisions are made online. For the new generation of e-commerce firms, the offline world is as important as the online one. New social platforms like Swipely will gain popularity. Data the Oil of CommerceFacebook captures vast amounts consumer data and this rich seam of data links personal data, network associations, transactions and location. It will drive yet further ways for brands to understand their customers. The very nature of the feedback mechanisms built into being a social brand provide the ability to fine tune product development, accelerate innovation and harness new technologies to drive engagement. The potential to harness this data to deliver targeted, personalized shopping experiences for brands, is huge.
What are the building blocks
Businesses need to start small and simple-piloting, experimenting and reworking until successfully determining how to transform themselves into being social and agile businesses. Businesses that embrace this change to social commerce will reap the benefits of differentiation, reduced customer acquisition costs, lower service costs and faster time to market. 1. Integration
- Get your channels in place. Set up Facebook and Twitter profiles – these are the main players.
- Develop a mobile website, this is increasingly important and most websites do not render or work effectively on a mobile.
- Use your mobile website to offer promotions, QR codes…many mobile website solutions like ours allow you to control this through a Content Management System that is easy to use.
- ‘Socialise’ your website: add social media sharing links to your website.
- Make it easy for people to share integrate social sharing with social sign-on so that items can be shared with the least amount of friction.
2. Facebook Page
- Develop your Facebook page and build you fan page. If you haven’t established a Facebook page yet then don’t just rush in and commission a Facebook store you need to initially test and build you presence on Facebook, make sure it works for you.
- Commission a branded landing page. Actively promote your products, promotions and discounts using email, Twitter and Facebook.
- Understand how social your customers are: listen and engage customers to see how they react. Social is not for everyone.
3. Extend your capabilities
- Enable sharing with friends before buying – to allow customers to crowd/friend-source advice on whether to buy.
- Use a Social Shopping Cart which allows people to shop and share with their friends via Facebooks social graph.
- Integrate Facebook comments into products; customer feedback is the essence of improving your range and products
- Don’t just sell: social commerce shouldn’t be all about selling – add value to their customers’ shopping experience – and give them a reason for communicating with you and their peers.
- Create a dialogue with customers who want to talk to you. Use your blog and social channels to do this.
- Use your Facebook wall like it’s your shop window but don’t only broad cast – use it for feedback. Openly encourage customers to have a say in the business – by crowdsourcing decisions it will encourage how they promote you (word of mouth initiatives)
- Integrate your customer service strategy with your social media strategy – diffuse situations by helping customers directly through social media.
4. A Facebook Store
- Investigate bespoke solutions turn your Facebook account into a fully functional e-commerce platform.
- Use Facebook contests that request “Likes” to automatically send users to the Facebook store to encourage product browsing.
- Integrate your marketing and inform your current customers where to find your store and how it works.
- Use the Facebook Fans API to combine promotions with links to product detail and purchase pages within the Facebook store – this enables brands to collect profile data. Add product videos – and host them on YouTube.
- Have a clear strategy and timetable promotions, make it varied and keep It interesting.
- Don’t simply discount. Use virtual rewards as well as monetary ones – reward your fans with exclusive discounts and promotions.
- Form alliances or partnerships with local businesses where you have synergies to promote each other.
- It is important to use a number of different tactics to drive traffic to your website, develop referrals from social media and use offline tactics.
- Measure and track how effective each is and use the information to refine and improve your marketing.
- Use Facebook analytics to understand who is buying, who is being converted – use it to refine your marketing approach.
What do you think will be the deciding factors for being successful with online?
Integrating touch points
We produced a rough illustration of how some touch points and technologies integrate; it is not a model so much of an example of how each can play a part in how a business can use mobile, social and emerging technologies.
The Offline Experience
Social commerce is an experience when done well, when done badly it is just spam.