Friday Nov 29, 2013

Social Commerce: ‘Tis the Season to See Revenue from Social

Shopping CartAh the holidays, the finest marketing, selling and revenue-generating time of the year.  It’s when the public is more willing to spend than ever. All brands have to do is make the process of discovering, researching and purchasing their product as fun and frictionless as possible. In 2013, social commerce has a distinct role to play in that.


What does social commerce, or “sCommerce” even mean these days? It used to primarily refer to the ability to buy products within the Facebook environment. And certainly social management platforms worth their salt offer integrated commerce modules to power such things.


But the truth is, social’s role in holiday shopping resides much closer to the beginning of the purchase journey than to the end. The average consumer today checks 10.4 info sources before buying. Gartner tells us 74% of consumers use social to help them decide what to buy. And that’s taking many forms, from social friend referrals to suggestions based on what you’ve bought before to user-generated shopping pages to a variety of virtual “shopping with friends” environments. Basically, if you want to win a customer, win their friends first.


Friends = trust, where so few other things do. Marketing messages from brands are tainted. Of course you think we should buy what you’re selling. Info from a brand rep is tainted. No presumption of objectivity exists. 92% of shoppers have more confidence in online info vs. anything from a sales clerk or other source. But opinions on social from friends or even strangers who may or may not know what they’re talking about…those are taken to the bank.


And that happens on social. 60% of social shopping starts on Facebook and 15% on Pinterest. RichRelevance says Facebook has the highest conversion rate of the biggest players. And the average order value for Pinterest is $200, while Facebook’s is just over $90 and Polyvore whoops them all at $383.


So if we know the influence on social leads to sales, what should we be doing about it? Let me throw the 2 “F” words at you again…fun and frictionless. The desperate, hard sell is not fun. The most affective social commerce is a non-obnoxious drip that coaxes and reminds shoppers of things they might be interested in.


To be frictionless, your social tech should be as integrated into CRM and other enterprise functions as possible so the customer experience is fast and seamless. Social shoppers are ready to buy, but their expectations are higher. 83% abandoned a purchase after encountering a bad CX.


Make it fun, make it social, make it frictionless, have their friends as existing advocates, and you not only have customers, you have volunteer marketers. Even shoppers 19-24 who buy something in-store are more likely to go post feedback online afterward than others. That’s great if you’re good but horrible for you if you’re on the naughty list. And don’t expect them to complain to your customer service instead of their pals. 73% of Millennials think other consumers care much more about their opinions than the companies themselves do. That’s really sad, but we must have given them that impression somewhere down the line.


So get festive. Make shopping for your product a great time, make it easy to share, give incentives to do so, be there instantly to answer questions, offer them a special deal, offer multiple ways to purchase, thank them, and be there after the purchase. Give them storybook brand experiences they can’t wait to share.


@mikestiles
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net


Tuesday Jul 09, 2013

In Search of Social Shopaholics

shopperIf you’re looking for people who are into social shopping, that is, shopping with friends or shopping based on what a friend told them, you don’t have to look very far.

Michael Aldrich made shopping online a reality way back in 1979. He connected a TV he’d altered to a real-time transaction processor using a phone line. It was the first time IT became “participative,” wherein a closed corporate system could communicate with outsiders for transactions or some other communication.

Don’t like my history lesson? Then fast forward to today and the level of acceptance of e-commerce…buying things online.

US online sales in the first quarter of 2012 hit $50,270,000,000. Forrester believes that in 2017, it’ll hit $370 billion and online will make up 10% of ALL US retail sales. Why? The top reasons people like shopping online are that it saves them time (73%), it offers more choices (67%), and it’s easy to compare prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal (59%).

It’s a global thing. The MasterCard Online Shopping Survey showed 91% of South Africans who shop online are highly satisfied with the experience. Now consider the rise of mobile around the world and the impact that has on online shopping as more people can research any purchase at any time from anywhere. Webloyalty says mobile shopping is predicted to drive 25% of retail sales by 2020.

Early reluctance is fading, the public’s comfort level with buying online is only going up. Now add to this time and money-saving convenience the influence social has on purchasing.

Common sense should tell us how social helps sales. If you’re in a store with a friend, considering an item, and the friend says, “Oh yeah, I bought that and I love it,” the deal is done. Social makes it possible to have not just one friend, but ALL your friends in the store with you. In fact, they’re with you even if you’re considering an item outside of a store.

75% of shoppers who read social feedback clicked on the product link taking them to the retailer’s site. 53% of those people bought the item. Facebook drives 26% of referral traffic to business sites. Retailers aren’t living under a rock. They’re deeply incorporating social across channels. They’re engaging people on their social properties, then pointing them back to their owned retail sites. And icing on the cake: they’re getting real-time, actionable social data that can help rapidly adjust and improve customer experiences.

Make the leap from e-commerce to s-commerce, conducting transactions within the Facebook or social environment itself, and you’ve eliminated yet another step/barrier to the sale. 20% of shoppers prefer buying products through a brand’s Facebook page compared to a brand site. 77% of people like getting exclusive deals they can redeem through Facebook. Why make shoppers cross the virtual street when the purchase can be made right where they are, before they change their minds? As long as your back end is set up in a way such as Oracle offers, with its powerful ATG online commerce platform fully integrated with the Shop module of it’s Social Relationship Management platform, you lose nothing by taking care of business right there on Facebook.

With online sales from social expected to grow 93% per year over the next 4 years, and with mobile making the nearly instantaneous discover/research/purchase sales cycle commonplace, the social networks might just be the place you want to hang that shingle.

@mikestiles

Friday Mar 22, 2013

The Path to a Social Sales Explosion

fireworkExperts love to pronounce the death of things.  Sadly, Social Sales has found its way onto various lists of the dearly departed. I say “sadly” because not only is it still kicking, but with integrated technologies in place and just one major impediment remaining, consumer purchasing on social platforms will explode and change shopping forever.

A New York Times article said while 15% of luxury fashion brands were trying out Facebook shops in 2011, only 2% are now. The PriceWaterhouseCoopers 2013 report showed 12% of respondents had purchased an item on a social site, while 70% of online shoppers said they never buy on social.

Geez, guess it’s all over, huh?

Tell that to small businesses running Facebook storefronts. The SBA reports they’re actually having more success than the big boys at social sales, with some getting 15-30% of their total sales from Facebook. What do they know that enterprise brands don’t?

They know it’s about the experience and leveraging the “social” part of social sales. The Edelman 2013 Trust Barometer shows we always trust each other more than we trust brands. A friend’s rave gets you to a Facebook storefront, where you’ll never be more engaged in that brand and that product than you are at that moment. It’s where the sale can be closed if you’re attentive. Being attentive is often a challenge for large brands.

They also know social commerce is part of something bigger called e-commerce, meaning the Facebook storefront is in sync with the store’s site and isn’t a lesser experience. Beyond that, there’s something even bigger called commerce, meaning brick and mortar enters the loop so all revenue sources work in concert. Customers can come to the store, and the store can go wherever the customer may be.

According to Rakuten’s latest E-commerce Index, 45% of the world’s consumers recommend products on social. The US leads the way in social shopping adoption, with 39% sharing and recommending products. Duke behavioral economics professor Dan Ariely writes that once we own something, its value increases in our minds. To validate the purchase, we advocate for the product. The Times article also cites the psychological concept “social proof.” If we know others are buying something, we assume it’s good.

The power of social influence on sales is amazing, and crystal clear, so why hasn’t the social sales “explosion” happened?

It’s not that consumers won’t trust a non-brick and mortar brand. Interbrand shows Amazon as the 4th most valuable US retail brand, with eBay coming in 9th as reported by Forbes. But social is perceived as more “fast and loose” when it comes to privacy, security and data protection. When industry efforts assuage that concern (easier as you get into younger demographics), look out.

The social storefront will explode, yielding revenue fueled by ease of use and social review/recommendation. The technology is ready. An integrated commerce platform that enhances the CX across social networks, that powers your site and mobile, and that offers prebuilt components to switch up content and stay relevant on the fly makes the social storefront an exciting place for customer and brand.

Plus the resulting data lets you tune customer segmentation and personalize experiences across channels. Gartner predicted earlier this year 50% of information on new customers will be based on social network id’s by the end of 2015.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report may not have been the rosiest, but its digital intelligence expert Matthew Tod still arrived at the conclusion, “Social commerce is an unstoppable force. 15 years from here will be a different world.”

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

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