Friday Aug 01, 2014

Social Commerce: Shopping Inside of Social

social commerceWe know the value of friends recommending products to friends, but are we seeing these motivated transactions conducted immediately on the social platforms themselves?  Is social commerce still a thing?

What really seems to matter most is whether or not brand participation on social channels is generating incoming traffic to wherever transactions happen to be transacted. In fact, the very definition of sCommerce has quietly morphed over the years from sales conducted on Facebook, to sales resulting from social.

On-Facebook stores are still available, of course. Brands like J.C. Penney, GNC, Levi’s and 1-800-Flowers have done it or are doing it. But the real drive, budget-wise, is to use social to generate traffic and leads as opposed to building social stores. Social budgets are also moving to rounding up leads and sales as opposed to branding. The expectations for pre-sold shoppers to come from social to the brand’s transaction location and make the purchase are high.

And yet…despite a Shopify survey that found Facebook driving almost two-thirds of social visits to Shopify stores and claiming a 129% year over year increase of orders from social, and despite the barely known Polyvore driving the top average order value of $66.75, less than 2% of traffic to retailers’ sites comes from social. And almost half of retailers said less than 1% of social shoppers wound up buying anything. The best social conversion rate is Facebook’s 1.85%.

So what’s broken?

Every hoop a buyer has to jump through is a golden opportunity for that buyer to reconsider, change their mind, or put off the purchase. The shortest, most frictionless path from discovery to reassurance to sale should be every brand’s Apollo mission. And since two of those three things are happening primarily on social, sales inside of social, that original definition of sCommerce, might be worth a solid second look.

The social nets are inching forward. Pinterest, the proclaimed king of purchase intent, has rich pins so prices and inventory can be updated real-time. You can reply to tweets with Amazon product links adding #AmazonCart and throw the item into your shopping cart. You can make AMEX purchases by adding a hashtag. But these things amount to better social catalog experiences or buy link usage, not purchase-inside-social opportunities.

Pictures leaked from Fancy in January gave us a peek at Twitter Commerce. Brand tweets can be expanded to show a Buy button, from which you could purchase the item inside the Twitter app. Now we’re talking. OpenSky is trying to get there as well.

The goal is to capitalize on everything social brings in terms of shopping and exposure to products tied to users’ visible interests, capitalize on the trusted recommendations of social connections, use content as your virtual end-aisle displays, use the ongoing social relationships you have with customers and rich social data to keep bumping them toward a purchase, customize their experiences, and find the quickest way to satisfy the buying impulse when it strikes.

Finding something you want to buy in a store and then being told by the clerk you have to go two buildings down to buy it sounds silly. Digital hoops are equally silly.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial

Friday May 23, 2014

How to Build Social Relationships for Sales

social sellingSales professionals have access to an abundance of blogs and articles offering to teach them how to use social media for sales. Many are quite good. Others are cryptic and vague because they’re trying to sell you something, like sales training programs.

Well, we don’t sell sales training programs at Oracle Social. So when I sling these tips your way, it’s more about fostering the appropriate & effective use of social for achieving your goals, but in ways that don’t annoy or turn off your social connections.

Tip: Cool Your Jets

Unless you sell jets. In fact, even if you do, making a social connection and then immediately hitting them with your pitch makes you someone to avoid. I know you need to hit your goals, but social relationship (and trust) building does not happen fast.

Tip: Get Over Yourself

People follow you on social for their purposes, not yours. Make the social relationship entirely about them, what they’re thinking about, questions/problems they have, etc. and they will be far more attentive to you.

Tip: Be a Consultant, Not a Salesperson

It’s no secret to your social followers whom you work for and what it is you offer. Go bigger and broader than that. Converse with them about overall challenges in the space, even suggesting some solutions or asset sources that aren’t yours. Be genuine.

Tip: Don’t Be a Curation Bot

Yes, you should share curated content. No you should not sling share an article every hour to all your followers. When you share an article with someone specifically because you paid attention and remembered they were dealing with that issue…that’s relationship gold!

Tip: Have a Thought in Your Head

The social nets are absolutely filled with people who appear to have absolutely no opinion or personal take on anything. Their original posts are vapid, innocuous, safe, and always sit on the fence. Yawn.

Tip: Get a Backbone

If I were a doctor, my life would be much easier if I just lied to everyone I saw and told them nothing was wrong with them. My patients would adore me! Sometimes, with the above-mentioned opinion in hand, you have to win respect by politely disagreeing and being honest.

Tip: Be Their Publicist

You can draw people to you if you give them what they want or need. What your social connections want/need is engagement with their content. If you promote them and position them as someone special on your channels, they’ll like you. Eventually, even the most self-obsessed will give you something in return.

Tip: Don’t Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em

You were attentive and conversing with me until I bought something from you, and suddenly all that great engagement stops? Uh oh. I’m going to feel like I’ve just been had.

Remember, when it comes to social media for sales, you’re connecting at a disadvantage right out of the gate. You’re not as smooth as you think you are. They know what you’re doing, they know why you’re trying to connect, they know what you want. All of that has to be overcome over time with humanness, honesty, genuineness, value, and transparency.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial

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.


Tuesday Aug 13, 2013

Social Mobile: Catch the Customer If You Can

gingerbread manWe’ve mentioned that more than ever, social is mobile. And while we’re at it, we should also point out that Internet connectivity is also mobile. There’s an old song called, “I’ve Got the World on a String.” Lyrics that were a fantasy in 1932 are now a literal expectation. We expect access to all the world’s information in our pocket, all the time, no matter where we are. No strings attached.

We also expect to accomplish whatever we need to get done, no matter where we are. That’s right, most mobile users are now surprised and even a little ticked off when an organization they need to interact with can’t be reached via their device. For social marketers, the opportunities are earthshaking. But at the same time, the task is ominous.

Consumers are moving at the speed of life, and you have to match that speed. It’s getting increasingly unlikely they’ll patiently wait for you and not look for alternatives.

Warning: Numbers Ahead:

  • Number of mobile subscribers around the globe: 5 billion.
  • Using smartphones to access social apps: 1 billion.
  • Number of times the average smartphone user checks social daily on mobile: 20.
  • Twitter time spent on a mobile app: 96.5%.
  • Facebook usage that comes from a mobile phone: 80%.
  • Amount of their online time mobile users spend on social: 30%.
  • Number of tablet units in usage today: over 70 million.
  • Amount of public Wi-Fi connections represented by mobile: 60%.
  • Time Pinterest’s audience spent on it via mobile app: 120,486,00 minutes.
  • What the number of Android activations exceeds: the US birthrate.
  • #2 tablet activity for users age 18-29: shopping.

To effectively execute as marketers on social, maybe we should think of ourselves as personal shoppers. Personal shoppers know what their clients like. They know when they’re going to need something. They know where the best choices and prices are. They’re not only responsive when the client reaches out, they’re proactive and do the reaching out if they have something they know will be of interest. They’re also readily available after the purchase in case something’s wrong. The keys to being the best personal shopper to your customers:

Know Them:
Use social listening tools to gather as much preference and behavioral data as you can. They don’t mind. One fourth even say ads on social don’t bother them provided the message has been tailored to them and makes their life easier.

Get Them What They Want:
Info, help, and goodies. Amazon’s PriceCheck app can scan an item in-store and show you the price and availability on Amazon. Instant reassurance you’ll get the best price. That’s your target, instant reassurance and gratification. As for help, 47% of consumers used social customer service, with 1 in 3 preferring to contact companies that way vs. phone. Goodies? Only 48% who used a check-in service got an incentive of any kind as a reward. That sure doesn’t pass the “why should I” test.

Be There 24/7:
Waiting until their need for you has passed isn’t going to do you any good. Better to have a proactive or real time strategy than to only operate in “crisis response” mode. However, for real time marketing to work, brands have to get a lot more nimble and empowered to respond.

Be Where They Are:
About 26% of tablet owners and 15% of smartphone owners look up product info after seeing a TV ad. Yes, 45% use their phone to compare prices while shopping, but a whopping 67% actually use their phone at home to shop and compare items. So don’t assume mobile means “not at home.”

Make it Easy:
The experience has to be fast, attractive, and relevant. If you’re going to make an app, make sure you know what your customers want to do on it first. Otherwise, keep your mobile site clean, simple and optimized. 90% report having to zoom to enlarge product text or images on mobile sites. Blah. Also, consumers are using more than one device, and using each differently. So consider relevancy not just in content but also in device context.

Photo: posterize,

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.



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