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
Photo: freeimages.com


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
Photo: freeimages.com

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 23, 2013

The Great Social Marketing Pain Point Poll

headacheJust as customers have pain points we as marketers need to address, we ourselves have to deal with our own social marketing pain points. Like any physical pain, pretending it’s not there, ignoring it, or putting off getting it seen about is highly likely to only make the situation worse.

Conversely, getting a good check-up and taking an honest, realistic inventory of what’s causing you to function at less than 100% is a pretty effective investment of time. If you’re not keeping pace with the competition, or if your social efforts are stuck in neutral, it’s high time to pinpoint specifically what the issues are that are preventing your growth and social marketing maturation.

So welcome to the Social Spotlight clinic, where we want to find out, “where does it hurt?” Below is a rather lengthy list of possible social marketing pain points you might be experiencing. Is it a complete list? Probably not. If your main stumbling block isn’t listed below, by all means let us know what it is in the comment section.

Otherwise we ask that you help out your fellow social marketers by participating in our “Great Social Pain Point Poll.” Below are your choices, so you can think and study in advance, but we ask that you go to the poll on our Oracle Social Facebook page and select three of the options. In the end, with your help and input, we’ll know what surfaces as the most common, pressing issues holding back the socially enabled enterprise.

Ready? Open up and say “ah.”

Social Marketing Pain Points:

  • Establishing the goals you want social to achieve
  • Getting social properties to drive traffic to owned properties like your site.
  • Getting your fans/followers to engage with your content
  • Getting fans/followers to give you referrals
  • Tying your social properties to your enterprise CRM software system.
  • Figuring out what content to put on your social channels
  • Figuring out who can and will create the content for your social channels
  • Resourcing for the manpower required to manage all your social channels
  • Figuring out where to find great social channel managers
  • Resourcing for/finding outsourced entities for content creation
  • Figuring out what metrics/KPI’s you need to watch that relate to business objectives.
  • Routing the feedback you get on social to product managers/developers
  • Streamlining your social channel management on one dashboard
  • Getting the C-suite to fully understand and embrace social and its benefits
  • Getting employees to participate on social on behalf of the brand
  • Legal issues surrounding social and content creation
  • Wanting to stop/prevent people from slamming your brand on social
  • Learning who your fans/followers are and what they want
  • Effectively and efficiently targeting your desired audience
  • Making sure your social is optimized and effective on mobile
  • Figuring out how to execute sales within the Facebook environment
  • Teaching sales reps to effectively use social for sales/relationship building
  • Finding people who can blog for the brand consistently
  • Figuring out the efficient management of hundreds of social streams
  • Figuring out who should and shouldn’t be allowed to represent your brand on social
  • Figuring out the approval process for content/posts/tweets
  • Creation of brand-wide social media standards & practices
  • Successfully utilizing social for PR and influence marketing
  • Successfully utilizing social for internal communication and collaboration
  • Figuring out how to market your social properties and let people know they exist
  • Learning and using the SEO advantages of social channels
  • Getting videos made to populate a brand YouTube channel
  • Setting up workflow so social can be effectively used for customer service
  • Maintaining a consistent voice and personality across social channels
  • Maintaining brand messaging across social channels
  • Deciding what to give fans/followers of value in return for their liking/following you (discounts, insider deals or info, etc.)
  • Figuring out how to demonstrate ROI
  • Gathering and managing the big data that comes in continuously from social
  • Listening to all the people talking about your brand out there on social

Remember, go to the poll on the Oracle Social Facebook page and pick your top 3. Then we’ll all know which pain is hurting the most and is in dire need of attention.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Apr 26, 2013

4 Steps to Social Selling

No solicitorsSocial selling has all but done away with the image of poor Willy Loman, the guys of Glengarry Glenn Ross, or the door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman who cleans everyone’s carpets for free then doesn’t get a sale. Those guys were cold callers who didn’t know their prospects. Didn’t even know they weren’t prospects at all.

But even the most veteran salespeople will tell you relationships are what usually get the deal closed. So it’s mighty convenient that social is all about connecting and fostering relationships. How senseless not to use social to do just that with customers and prospects, or not to use social to know as much about buyers as possible.

Ta-da! Marketing automation + social data + social listening & engagement is ready to rock your monthly billings. CSO Insights found “effective use of sales intelligence increases revenue productivity per sales rep by 17%.” Social is a fountain of sales intelligence, and there are 4 steps to positioning yourself for that kind of win.

1. Be a good, active social citizen
Would you buy sunglasses from a longtime personal contact on Facebook or someone that randomly pinged you solely for the purpose of selling you sunglasses? People buy from people they know.

  • Get to know prospects by being on the networks they favor.
  • Be part of the groups they’re in, sharing content of real and relevant value to that group.
  • Be consistent, perpetually growing your network so your own fans and rave reviewers will be there to legitimize you.
  • Make sure all your social profiles are accurate and transparent so prospects can research you.
  • Make sure your contact info is on all your profiles so prospects can reach you.
  • Don’t be constantly pitching your product to every eye that can see you.

2. Listen and learn
Do they teach in sales school that often, the fastest path to a deal is to just shut up and listen? If not, they should. Listening to your prospects’ conversations reveal issues you can step in and resolve. You won’t be a pest, you’ll be a hero.

  • Honest, it’s not stalking. Be aware of what your prospects are thinking and talking about.
  • Look for indications in their social posts that signal they may need your solution.
  • Use the keywords in your social listening platform (you do have one, right?) to get alerted whenever a prospect is experiencing a pain point.
  • Use that same platform to keep an eye on multiple social networks at once so you can seize all such opportunities in real time.
  • With social listening, insert yourself into the buyer’s current stream of thought as opposed to trying direct their stream of though to what you want.

3. Engage at the right time, in the right way
You’re not cold calling, which is a time burner anyway. According to InsideView, over 90% of CEO’s said they never respond to cold emails or calls. Instead, you’re approaching the buyer due to their publicly expressed problem.

  • Craft your social relationship so you’re not seen as a vendor, but as a trusted advisor. Invest the time to foster that image.
  • Connection rates through LinkedIn are 7 times greater than email. Their InMail yields an open rate often over 20%. Connect in ways they trust and are comfortable with.
  • Studies show it can take an average of 6.2 email/phone/voicemail exchanges and 9 business days to set up a meeting. Social tools can reduce the friction.
  • Engage buyers early in their search for a solution. They do a lot of research on social, so if you’re listening, you can be the first to solve their problem.
  • Connect prospects to others who’ve used your solution to positive effect. It’s greatly reassuring, and studies show social users trust peers with no vested interest much more than brands.
  • Make sure your solution is clear, that it’s about them and their immediate needs, and that you’re making them confident enough to take the desired action.

4. Use data to apply what you learn, enterprise-wide
There are few things sadder than really great customer insight, much of it gleaned from social, sitting unapplied to all of the customer touch points across the enterprise, including sales.

  • Absorb integrated data so consumer preferences and behavior can be predicted, and the effectiveness of sales approaches and channels can be adjusted.
  • Understand that social affords you real time info that’s squandered if real time responses aren’t a part of the strategy.
  • Marketing automation technology is driving the convergence of sales and marketing. Marketers must be sellers, meaning leads and sales get added to awareness on the marketer’s to-do list.
  • In “Successful Social Selling,” Matt Heinz reminds us the goal is to get qualified prospects, not followers. That calls for different metrics to gauge the success of social selling.
  • Integrated marketing/sales approaches help track how effective marketing campaigns are across varying media such as mail, email and social.
  • A holistic approach such as the Oracle/Eloqua combo that activates all data and generates deep-dive analytics will pull marketing closer to sales and every other department across the enterprise, so the insight can enable superior customer experiences across all channels.

Much has been written about the growing critical nature of the customer experience. Keeping in mind prospects approached via social are part of that customer experience imperative will encourage A-game social sellers to demand the tech tools to listen to and engage potential customers more effectively.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

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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