Tuesday Mar 26, 2013

SRM Demo

You may have noticed Oracle has acquired several social media software companies.  The video below demonstrates the integration of those assets into a complete Social Relationship Management suite.  This 7 minute video shows how a grocer uses social media to support the opening of a new store in the UK.

Tuesday Dec 11, 2012

From Transactions To Engagement

I've mentioned in the past that Oracle has invested quite a bit in acquiring social companies to build out its Social Relationship Management suite.  The concept is to shift away from transactions and towards engagement.  Social media represents a great opportunity to engage with customers, learn what they want, and personalize the shopping experience for them.

I look at SRM as the bridge between traditional CRM and CX.  If you're looking for ideas, check out Five Social Retailing Suggestions and Social Analytics and the Customer.  There are lots of ways to leverage social media to enhance the customer experience and thus drive more sales.

My friends over at 8th Bridge have just released their Social IQ report in which they rate retailers on their social capabilities.  They also produced a nice infographic so you can consume the data quickly, but I'd still encourage you to download the full report.

Retailers interested in upping their SRM abilities should definitely stop by the Oracle booth at NRF in January.

Tuesday Jul 03, 2012

Social Analytics and the Customer

Many successful retailers put the customer at the center of everything they do, so its important that the customer is modeled correctly across all their systems.  The path to omni-channel starts and ends with the customer so at ARTS, our next big project is focused on ensuring a consistent representation of customers across our transactional data model, datawarehouse model, and XML schemas.  Further, we've started a new whitepaper that describes how Big Data and Social Media Analytics should be leveraged by retailers to add and additional level of customer insight.

Let's start by taking a closer look at the meaning of social analytics.  Here's my definition:

Social Analytics, in the retail context, describes the analysis of data obtained from social media sources in an effort to better comprehend and interact with the community of consumers.  This discipline seeks to understand what’s being said by the community about brands and products (“monitoring”), as well as understand the behaviors of those in the community (“profiling”).  The results are used to enforce the brand image, improve product decisions, and better focus marketing, all of which lead to increased sales.

To help illustrate the facets of social analytics, I drew the diagram below which was originally published by Retail Touchpoints.

There are lots of tools on the market that allow retailers to monitor social media for brand and product mentions.  These include analysis of sentiment, reach, share of voice, engagement, etc.  When your brand is mentioned, good or bad, its an opportunity to engage with the customer and possibly lead to a sale.  Because products are not always unique, its much more difficult to monitor product mentions, but detecting product trends early can help a retailer make better merchandising decisions, especially in fashion.

Once a retailer understands what's being said, the next step is learn more about who's saying it.  That involves profiling customers beyond simple demographics to understand their motivations.  Much can be learned from patterns, and even more when customers voluntarily share their data.  Knowing that a customer is passionate about, for example, mountain biking allows the retailer to make relevant offers on helmets, ask for opinions on hydration, and help spread marketing messages.

Social analytics has many facets that benefit retailers, some of which are easy but many of which are hard.  Its important for the CMO and CIO to work closely together to plan for these capabilities and monitor the maturity of tools on the market.  This is an area that will separate winners from losers.

Tuesday Jun 12, 2012

Social Retailing

For retailers the move to mobile has been obvious.  More and more consumers are interacting with retailers, both online and in the store, using their mobile devices.  Retailers are quick to invest in both consumer facing mobile apps as well as ones to equip employees.  But when I talk to retailers about social, the value isn't as clear-cut.  Intuitively, retailers know that better relationships with customers will result in higher sales, but the trip to get there has many paths.

The interesting thing about social media is that it has the potential to permeate all parts of the business.  Obviously it works well for marketing, but it also has a place with recruiting, knowledge management, trend analysis, and employee collaboration.  Information gathered from social media can enhance existing processes like assortment planning, product development, space planning, promotion planning, and replenishment.  Letting the customer influence each of these areas helps align the experience.

One of the things holding retailers back is the lack of consistent and integrated tools to manage social media and make sense of the huge amounts of data.  To that end Oracle has been aggressively acquiring in the space, as depicted in the infographic below.  Soon, social will get the same level of investment as mobile.

[info graphic removed]

The Social CRM Arms Race: A Timeline - An infographic by the team at Pardot Marketing Automation

Wednesday Apr 25, 2012

Love, Want, Own, Wearing

It's not just about "like" anymore.  New expressive buttons will help retailers better capture consumer sentiment, and ultimately increase engagement.  Check out this social shopping video from 8thBridge...

Five Social Retailing Suggestions

The use of social media by retailers, or Social Retailing for short, continues to spread throughout the industry. However, there are very few established best practices since retailers are still exploring this new type of marketing and engagement. Retailers often have to try many approaches before finding the ones that work for their brand. Through my discussions and research, I’ve come up with five things retailers should consider:

1. Establish beachheads, now!

Remember when brands had to pay exorbitant prices for their web addresses when the internet went mainstream? Don’t let that happen with social media sites. Reserve accounts on the sites you might be using. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are the obvious choices, but there are others popping up all the time. Would Linkedin be appropriate? How about Pinterest?

You should also consider whether you need to support other languages. Do you need multiple Facebook pages for each country in which you operate? Should you consider Renren in China or Orkut in Brazil? Don’t assume the site popular in your home country are the same everywhere.

Also consider whether you want to establish a single corporate presence, or whether you want stores to have more control. Some retailers, like Best Buy and Walmart, allow individual stores to have accounts and create local content.

2. Acquire fans and followers.

Your customers are out there, but you can’t expect them to follow you without a little prodding. Sometimes they’ll follow you just because they want to be associated with your brand, but most often they want to get something out of the relationship. Plan on a campaign to acquire them across your selected sites. This is where contests, coupons, and promotions can attract the masses.

Once you've got their attention, you must continue to engage them with fresh content that includes sneak previews, product reviews, surveys, special events, etc.  While content should be coordinated across different social media sites, keep in mind the expectations for those sites varies.  You can typically post to Twitter multiple times daily, to Facebook a few times a week, and YouTube once a month.

3. Reward your best fans and followers.

Customers want to feel special, so let your best fan and followers know you appreciate them.  Offer them special deals, products, and badges that help them know you value them.  They, in turn, will become brand advocates and help spread your message.

When possible, make your rewards social.  For example, a promotion goes into affect only after 5000 likes, offer a discount for retweets, or award a badge for the most interesting comment.

4. Make shopping social.

Social commerce is not about recreating your e-commerce site within a social site.  Consumers will visit your website when they want to buy, but they'll visit your social channels when they want to learn.  Its important to foster conversations about your products and services, and refer people to your website when they are ready to purchase.

Similarly, you should add social features to your e-commerce site.  Allow your customers to review products, make recommendations, and discover each others' preferences.  Facebook is now allowing retailers to customize the famous "like" button with more expressive buttons such as "I own it," "I want it," and "not sure."

5. Mine psychographic data.

Consumers, especially teens, are willing to share lots of information about themselves in exchange for a more personalized experience.  With their permission, you can gather psychographic data that includes their interests, activities, and opinions.  This additional information helps create a more complete view of individuals so you can tailor their online and in-store experience to meet their needs.

Other resources I suggest are the NRF Social Retailing Blueprint and this presentation.

Thursday Apr 19, 2012

Shop It To Me

 Upcoming webinar that may be of interest...

Email_HeaderComplimentary Webinar organized by Oracle Retail and Spigit

DATE: Wednesday, April 25th
TIME: 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. PST

Point, click, share, compare and buy all from the palm of your hand – in store and online.  Sounds fabulous for consumers, but Retailers will have their hands full as social channels continue to redefine the rules of engagement.  This Webinar will bring you new insights on how to avoid common pitfalls in social retail and make the leap to fully realize the value of seamless customer engagement.

Join David Dorf, Sr. Director of Technology Strategy, Oracle; James Gardner, Chief Strategy Officer, Spigit and Adam Metz, author of #1 Amazon Best-Seller (internet marketing, customer service) The Social Customer, as they discuss:

  • The state of social retail
  • 5 social media secrets to securing connected customers
  • Crossing the chasm between theory and real-time co-creation with your customers

Attendees will learn:

  • Best practices in social retail models that work to create competitive advantage
  • How to engage the crowd to uncover game-changing insights
  • Real-world examples from the retail frontline.

Register now for your chance to win a copy of the book, The Social Customer, by Adam Metz, or a Silver membership to The Social Concept Customer Community.

Monday Feb 20, 2012

F-Commerce gets an 'F'

Bloomberg is reporting that Gamestop, JCPenney, and Nordstrom have all closed their Facebook stores.  That's not the best timing with Facebook's IPO just over the horizon, but I don't think this should really be news to astute retailers.  Duplicating an e-commerce store within Facebook doesn't really offer a different experience, and Facebook users are used to punching out to the Web for all sorts of things.  By simply putting a store on Facebook, retailers have missed the point of F-commerce.

In my mind at least, F-commerce should be more about the social aspects of shopping leading up to a purchase, not the actual purchase itself.  You're not going to get much more convenient than today's Web stores, so efforts should not be focused there.  Instead, focus on ways to move the water-cooler conversations about products to Facebook where its easier to influence people into acting on those conversations.

If you've ever seen me talk about the topic, I usually show a slide depicting three approaches to F-commerce.  There's the "tab store", which is how 1-800-Flowers first approached Facebook.  Then there's the "wall store," which is best represented by JCPenney and ASOS in the UK.  And finally there's the "newsfeed store," which has been successful for stores like The Limited.  The newsfeed store highlights a couple products or promotions within the newsfeed, alongside the conversations with all your friends.  It capitalizes on the social aspects of Facebook, and doesn't try to duplicate an entire Web store.

My friend Wade Gerten, CEO of 8th Bridge, said of stores within Facebook, “it was basically just another place to shop for all the stuff already available on the retailer websites.  I give so-called F-commerce an ‘F.’”

I want to be clear that I'm not criticizing these retailers for their efforts.  They did exactly what innovative leaders should be doing: experiment, and if it doesn't work then cut the cord quickly.  Now that lessons have been learned, its time to move on and capitalize on the knowledge gained.

Retailers should continue to use Facebook to communicate with consumers and drive them to stores and e-commerce.  As always, the best results come from managing all the channels together in a unified way, leveraging the best aspects of each without needless duplication.

Tuesday Jan 31, 2012

Curated Commerce

As we create more and more digital information, it becomes harder to find exactly what we're looking for.  Google has done a fantastic job of enabling search, but it still takes work to comb through the matching results to find the right answer.  And if you're not really sure what you're looking for, Google is probably not the right tool.

If you're looking for products, choosing your favorite retailer's site is a good start.  There, you can browse using facets to figure out options.  Retailers will often group items together, as if they were designing a store window, to show related items together.  However, that approach may be difficult to scale.  A better approach might be to allow customers to do the curating themselves.  This is not unlike the crowd-sourcing I described in this post about Polyvore.

The latest in curated commerce is Pinterest, a site that let's people "pin" interesting things they find online to thematic "bulletin boards."  When those interesting things are products, its possible to make browsing the collections seem like shopping in a boutique.  This helps consumers discover and share, which in turn elevates sales.

According to Mashable, Pinterest is becoming a significant referrer to retailer sites, especially fashion ones. With 7.5M users, 58% of which are women, this trend is expected to continue.

This is yet another consideration for any retailer's social strategy.

Tuesday Jan 10, 2012

ARTS Social Retailing Blueprint

At ARTS, we focus on helping retailers succeed with using technology.  Technology can be a competitive advantage, but it can also hold companies back if its allowed to grow stale.  Its important for every retailer to stay abreast of emerging technologies, and understand how adoption may or may not benefit the business. Using social media is the latest topic being addressed by ARTS.

The ARTS Social Retailing Blueprint is a 143-page whitepaper that describes the use of social media by the retail industry.  It includes ten specific tactics, examples of those tactics in use, and suggestions on organizational alignment.  The document was written by representatives from the following companies: 8th Bridge, MicroStrategy, Verizon, Cisco, IBM, Oracle Retail, Versatil, Epson, SAP, Pier 1 Imports, Meru Networks, Red Prairie, Safeway, Criti, Cellpoint Mobile, and Push Science (in no particular order). 

Below is my favorite part of the blueprint, a summary of the ten tactics on a maturity scale.  Retailers should first determine which of the ten tactics makes sense for their business, then for each tactic there are varying levels of maturity.  Retailers will ideally start with the Novice level and grow to the right toward Advanced.

If you're having trouble reading this eye-chart, click here for the raw version in which you can zoom.

At the ARTS User Conference last year, I delivered a presentation on the Social Blueprint which you can find here. Two other great articles are at the NRF Big Blog and RIS News.

There is no perfect recipe for social retailing, so its necessary for each retailer to experiment to find what works for them.  Also, set realistic expectations for your social media efforts.  Its unrealistic to think you'll substantially increase sales by creating a Facebook page, for example.  Social media campaigns are an investment in your relationship with your customers, so give it some time to grow and strengthen.  There is great potential for a relatively small investment.

Tuesday Jun 14, 2011

Marks & Spencer on Facebook

Father's Day is coming, and if you're in the UK you can surf to the Marks & Spencer Facebook page to get some gift ideas. There, Zibaba has created a storefront showing lots of products appropriate for dads.  You can browse the products and "like" the ones that stand out.  If you click on the "shop now" button, you'll be taken the product page on the Marks & Spencer e-commerce site.

It seems the page can be easily updated for future events, so Father's Day is probably just the beginning.  Although Zibaba claims to handle orders, M&S decided to send the customer to their e-commerce site to add the product to the cart.  I guess this reduces the need for integration, and also allows the customer to purchase additional products not shown on the Facebook page.

I'm just not sure their 300,000 fans will really use the page.  Recreating a shopping page within Facebook just doesn't seem to attract shoppers.  If you want to catch up with friends, visit Facebook; if you want to shop online, visit e-commerce sites.  The best way to engage shoppers in a social setting is to post to their walls.  Even when I liked a product on the M&S page, I didn't see anything in my newsfeed.

Facebook isn't a place for shopping -- its a place for conversations.  And yes, some of the conversations can be about shopping, but that is better suited for the newsfeed.  I just don't think M&S hit the mark with their Facebook page, but I guess time will tell.

Monday May 23, 2011

News Feed Optimization

Although the term "news feed optimization" has been around since 2007, I didn't realize its importance until talking with Wade Gerten of 8th Bridge.  Getting people to Like your brand is only the first step.  Next the brand must leverage that relationship, typically via the news feed.  But without some work, those fans will never see what's posted in their news feed.  That's where news feed optimization comes in.  NFO is to Facebook as SEO is to Google.  

You'll notice at the top of your Facebook page there are two choices for your news feed: Top News and Most Recent, with Top News being the default.  Facebook uses a secret ranking system, called EdgeRank, to determine which stories belong in your Top News, and of course many people have attempted to reserve engineer the algorithm.

While the exact algorithm is not known, Facebook has shared the basics of EdgeRank, the algorithm behind Top News.  For any story, there are three things that determine its score: affinity, weight, and recency.  The affinity is based on the closeness of the reader and the poster.  Every time you like or comment on an item, that increases your affinity with that item and/or person.  So if you comment on Bob's postings a lot, Bob's postings will score higher and be more likely to show on your news feed.

Posting types are weighted differently based on their level of engagement.  Photos tend to be weighted higher than shared links or status updates because they have a higher engagement.  Ever wonder why Coke posts tons of images?  Things that have more comments are weighted higher than things with lots of Likes.  It takes more time to read a comment, and thus the engagement level is higher.

Of course no one wants a stale news feed, so as postings age their rank decreases.  But something that has very high engagement may linger on your news feed as people continue to comment, for example.

Just as retailers have learned how to manipulate PageRank to move up in Google search, they need to also think about EdgeRank so their social media efforts in Facebook pay off.  That means using more images, getting fans to engage with comments and not just Likes, and keeping the posting fresh and relevant.

Monday May 16, 2011

Social Blueprint for Retail

The Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS), a division of the NRF, has three primary objectives for helping retailers: build standards, produce RFP templates, and educate.  Lately I've been focused on the education aspects, helping with the SOA Blueprint, Mobile Blueprint, and Cloud Computing whitepapers.  Our next endeavor will be a whitepaper that discusses the use of social media in retail.

This will be an interesting project since social media is relatively young and fluid.  In my discussions with retailers, most generally understand the value of mobile right away, but the jury is still out on social.  Therefore, this paper will focus on classifying the different types of social media campaigns and programs, examples specific to retail, and advice on ways to get started.  Regular readers of this blog know there are many interesting examples, and retailers will benefit from having them easily accessible in a single document.

Unlike the NRF Mobile Blueprint, this project is sponsored by ARTS and therefore requires ARTS membership.  Big names like IBM, SAP, Oracle, and Pier 1 Imports are already signed-on along with others to create a healthy mix of vendors and retailers.  If you are interested in joining ARTS and participating on the sub-committee, please contact Richard Mader (maderr@nrf.com).  There will be several conference calls leading up to our next face-to-face in Minneapolis, July 25-27.


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