Social marketing programs have gained credibility as a valid way to engage buyers and raise awareness, yet marketers still struggle to connect social marketing’s impact to bottom-line revenue.
As a result, many social marketing programs are underfunded. But blatant attempts to use social media to sell something can backfire, since buyers don’t go to their favorite social sites with the primary intention of buying something.
The business case for social marketing exists, but it requires a customer-centric, brand-relevant approach executed in a way that won’t alienate buyers.
Encouraging sales transactions by adding a social layer to shopping experiences is fueling a new marketing discipline known as social commerce. This comes at a welcome time, since many digital marketers, while good at tapping into social networks to build their brands and engage customers, still struggle to tie social marketing investments to bottom-line revenue. Several techniques that started emerging a few years ago have begun to mature, giving marketers proven ways to monetize their social marketing programs. In this piece from Razorfish, we explore:
The rise of social commerce
Why social commerce is both art and science
How to capitalize on popular techniques to monetize social activities
Recommendations for social marketers
The Rise of Social Commerce
A recent study (from Kenshoo and DataPop) shows a steady 60 percent year-over-year increase in revenue attribution from social sites, especially Pinterest, Wanelo, Polyvore and Houzz. Nearly half the retailers surveyed in the study have invested in social commerce.
Other studies from eMarketer and AdAge show that millennials watch far less TV than they did four years ago, and 90 percent of affluent consumers use social media to support buying decisions. As a result, advertisers in the US and Canada increased ad spend on social sites by 31 percent in 2015.
Facebook is notably investing in social commerce, given that two-thirds of its audience buy products online, and as shown in Figure 1, social networks are an established research channel for this group. Thirty-six percent of active Facebook users say they use social networks to research products (with only search engines and consumer reviews posting higher figures).
Asian shoppers have quickly responded to the social commerce trend. In China, messaging apps such as WeChat are making buying simple and straightforward by integrating payment systems. Line, another app ecosystem (with over 60 apps in its portfolio!) with high adoption in Japan has Uber-type functionality built into its offering. Weibo (Chinese Twitter) sold over 50,000 automobiles in a single day. In the case of China, the emergence of messaging apps has played a key role in the success of social commerce. While chat apps in the Western hemisphere are behind the curve on payment integration, we expect to see that change over the next year.
Top 5 online research channels among facebookers Percent of active Facebook users who research brands, products, & services via the following
While shopping as a social activity can be traced back to ancient cultures, it hasn’t proved as fruitful in the age of social media. Early attempts at explicit brand promotion on social sites, especially blogs, failed miserably. Tactics from Facebook (e.g., F-Commerce) contained great logic, but proved difficult to
connect to payment and inventory systems.
Then there’s the audience itself. Western social networks were born out of colleges and were adopted by younger audiences, who were looking to connect with friends (and also had little money to spend!). Contrast that with Asia, where the social platforms are in the hands of those with disposable income, and we start to understand another dimension to the challenge we have been facing in making social commerce a success.
But there were some successes even back in early Western days of social. Sony, for example, pioneered the use of Twitter as a discount store in 2009, which quickly generated one million euros from its tech-savvy audience, proving that aligning social commerce tools with your target persona reinforces the point made earlier about the importance of the audience analysis (not just the capabilities of the platform). Social commerce is emerging as a valid discipline. But it has to be executed in the right way.
SapientRazorfish Art of Social Media.
How to Capitalize on Popular Techniques to Monetize Social Activities
Several techniques are emerging that help marketers skillfully and naturally connect social behavior to sales transactions and lead generation. For example:
Capitalize on behavior triggers
Facebook users regularly see birthday reminders when they log into Facebook. Other life events, such as professional and personal anniversaries, graduations or retirement, also offer commerce opportunities triggered by social behavior. While such triggers are great for spontaneous purchases, they can also help brands that sell high-price items characterized by longer, more complex buying journeys. Hence, many marketers tag social behavior as a lead source in their demand generation systems, then use these opportunities to drive and nurture leads to closure.
Use social media to disseminate discounts and offers
Social media has proven to be an efficient channel for quickly distributing offers, given its speed, scale and shareability. Motorola, for example, leveraged the selfie-stick trend on April Fool’s Day to drive traffic to a special buy-now coupon offer. Over the course of two days, news of its selfie stick caught the attention of celebrity and tech influencers, earning nearly 200 million media impressions while delivering 205 percent of its sales forecast.
Sell directly through social networks
In a Steelhouse survey, over 300 million Facebook users said they regularly purchase items viewed on their Newsfeed or a friend’s wall. Facebook’s new “Shopping” tab aggregates products from businesses with a Facebook page, including items for sale on other parts of the site, such as Groups.
Then there is using social media to refer customers – obvious, perhaps, but a method that still needs to inspire someone to click and requires careful audience targeting. Major retailers such as eBay use social as a referral to bring people into their buying experience. Starbucks customers send gift cards to friends via a simple tweet. Using tools from the likes of Chirpify, a brand can connect its social updates to product listings, letting shoppers easily transition to checkout by commenting on a post.
Buy buttons make it easy
Buy buttons (which Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter have implemented to seamlessly convert browsers to buyers) also solve a huge problem for mobile marketers that experience high abandonment rates because of the frustrating process of entering credit card information into small screens. Even YouTube has introduced shoppable videos to give social shoppers a frictionless purchase path.
Make social a seamless part of an integrated experience
If you’ve ever remodeled your home, you know how arduous it can be to engage and coordinate designers, vendors and contractors to get to a finished state. It’s why marketers at Lowe’s partnered with Houzz, a home remodeling site, empowering buyers to co-create their vision with friends and designers, then click through to products, suppliers and local professionals in a seamless experience that accelerates and unifies a highly fragmented buying process.
Open the shopping experience to the social interaction
Shopping with a friend is a real-world behavior, and one that can be leveraged in the virtual world too. Brands are capitalizing on this instinctive behavior by building social characteristics into their digital commerce sites. LivingSocial’s business model rewards shoppers for sharing their purchases on social sites, offering refunds for those who inspire at least three others to buy. Food delivery sites such as Munchery and Sprig took a page from Uber’s marketing playbook to give discounts to those who advocate their service to friends. Brands that encourage customers to sign up with their social credentials also skillfully merge social and commerce activities.
Facilitating and enabling reviews
A whopping 98 percent of consumers read product reviews before making a final purchase decision. This behavior, which began to mobilize most notably in electronics, has spread to virtually every purchase category, even home buying. Product reviews, when authentic, can help boost revenue enormously.
Grow and mobilize your advocates
According to studies by McKinsey, buyers are seven times more likely to buy when they engage with a brand’s advocate (since these individuals are more likely to do deep research when evaluating a product). The buyer’s zeal to advocate a brand on social networks is why a flurry of advocacy marketing platforms continue to emerge and flourish from providers such as SocialTwist, ReadyPulse, Extole, Influitive and Amplifinity.
Real-time social conversion
We are rapidly moving toward a world where marketers engage with individuals in real time when they exhibit buying behavior in a social context. Companies like Mercedes-Benz and Tourism Dubai are using real-time marketing command centers, designed to convert people when they are “in the moment” at key points in the path to purchase.
Recommendations for Social Marketers
Several management practices are emerging that help marketers skillfully and naturally connect social behavior to sales transactions and lead generation. For example:
Pinpoint where social plays a role in your path purchase
Use your analytics to research and construct insight into how your prospects and customers use social media to browse, buy and engage with brands in your category.
Map out what happens after the sale
Be sure you include post-purchase behavioral trends, particularly brand advocacy. As studies have shown, your most loyal customers buy more and buy higher-margin products. But they are also willing to “sell” on your behalf over their favorite social networks.
If you haven’t already, think about forming your own community to socially engage with buyers after the sale to provide insight and advice for extending the life of your product or other advice that will help buyers get higher return from your products and solutions.
Consider online to offline (O to O) opportunities
Buyers expect the experience to be integrated across physical and virtual environments. Technologies needed to make this scenario happen (e.g., QR codes, iBeacons, global positioning systems and near-field communication) are available now. But even the introduction of apps, tablets and digitally enabled experiences in store can make a difference. Work with your technology counterparts, such as the chief marketing technologist, to develop plans for an integrated O to O buying experience.