January 29, 2013 by George Eberstadt
The essence of social media is that the content comes from users. A social graph is important for some types of social sites, like Facebook, where posts tend to be of interest only to people who have a connection to the poster. But it’s not essential. I can lose myself quite happily in Pinterest without following or being followed by anyone. It’s the UGC (user-generated content) that’s the key.
So by that definition, should eCommerce sites be considered social media? Emphatically YES. On many eCommerce sites, most of the content is user-generated. On this page on Backcountry.com (I don’t know if it’s representative – it’s the first one I clicked on), the word count for reviews and Q&A is 1,125, while the combined Description and Technical Specs word count is 179. On this page on Adorama.com, the word count for Social Q&A is 6,116. The word count for customer reviews is 1,302. And the combined word count for Overview, Features, and Tech Specs is 478.
And yet eCommerce sites rarely think of themselves as social media sites. Most of the larger brands and stores we work with have separate teams for “site experience” and “social media marketing”. That makes sense. You want to organize your teams around the 80% of things they focus on uniquely, not the 20% of things where responsibilities overlap. But a consequence of this way of organizing is that the social aspects of the site experience often get too little attention. The site experience team needs to focus on page design and navigation and check-out and cross-sell/recommendation and branding and loads more; social interaction is just a small part of their mandate. The social media team, on the other hand, has become the center for expertise on how the store interacts with its customers, and how to encourage customers to interact with each other and spread the good word. But the social media team’s domain is everywhere on the web except the store site; that belongs to the site experience team.
With the social mojo focused off the brand/store website, and the store site team spread thin, it’s not surprising that the user experience on most store sites is not very social. But just ’cause that’s how it is doesn’t mean that’s how it should be. In fact, by ceding the social arena to the social media sites, most stores are missing huge opportunities to create value. A different approach, which recognizes that eCommerce IS social media and makes social a high-priority responsibility of the site experience team, can address many of the toughest challenges that online stores face.
Challenge #1: Differentiation.
If other stores also sell the same products you sell, then your product detail pages probably look a lot like theirs. Likely, you both get the same product descriptions from the manufacturer and use the same images. Not only does this leave you competing solely on price (yuck), it means you have little chance of generating search engine traffic organically. Whatever margin you have left is going out the SEM window.
But social content is unique. Build social engagement on your storefront and you can generate content no other site has, increasing the value you bring to your shoppers as well as your performance with search engines. (Jack Kiefer, CEO of BabyAge.com, has a great discussion of this point in this recent webinar.)
Challenge #2: Customer Support.
Pre- and post- sales, customers have questions. Sometimes these questions get posted on social media sites. But more often, those customers come to your site, and one way or another (email, phone, livechat) they end up in your call center. That costs you $, and it doesn’t always make your customer happy. While many inquiries need your staff (e.g. “where’s my order?”), many others can be handled at least as well socially. Past customers are often more accurate, faster, and more persuasive than your own team. Really. Here’s some hard data.
And here’s a little illustration: I stumbled on a customer question recently at Overstock.com about a chair I had bought from them. This person couldn’t figure out how to make it recline. Since I sit in it all day long, I had a pretty good idea what the problem was. AFTER I sent in my answer, customer service posted a vague “We want to help you…” non-answer. Then, to my gratification, the asker wrote back that my post indeed solved the issue. (See it here.) Social (1), Customer Support (0).
Challenge #3: Loyalty
Shoppers who engage deeply with your site are more likely to direct-navigate back to your site the next time they need to buy something, rather than just typing the thing into Google and going where ever that leads. So what opportunities for deep engagement do you provide? Social interaction is the most powerful tool you’ve got in the engagement tool kit. In fact, in a recent study, we found that first-time buyers who interact with Social Q&A while shopping are 15-40% more likely to make a repeat purchase within a year than first-time buyers who don’t. (Blog post on that coming up.)
Further, social gives you an opportunity to reach out to your past customers and invite them back to your site that is completely different from the usual promotional material you send. For example, past customers click through on shopper question emails and return to the store site to answer at a 10% rate. And the unsubscribe rate on these emails is typically ~ 0.2%. Most stores using the TurnTo Social Q&A system tell us that, by these measures, this question email is one of the best performing marketing emails they send. Period. Not to mention that the purchase conversion rate for these past customers who come back to answer is 2-4X higher than that of normal shoppers.
With benefits like these, it’s time for site experience teams to recognize that eCommerce IS social media and start prioritizing projects that socialize the on-site experience. Leaving social to the social media team is leaving money on the table.
January 16, 2012 by John Swords
Congratulations to InkJetSuperStore for winning the Social Media Marketing category of Retail TouchPoints’ Customer Engagement Awards 2012!
You can read Retail TouchPoint’s article here and download the complete Customer Awards Report from there, but in a nutshell it was through a nomination process, the winners were selected based on, but not limited to, four specific criteria:
- Unique shopping/promotional offerings
- Customer engagement strategies
- Customer analysis
- Technology innovation
Using the TurnTo technology, InkJetSuperStore has increased conversion, AOV, and loyalty. Here are some of the results from the past couple of months.
- Shoppers who asked questions or read Q&A from others converted at a rate 80% higher than those who didn’t – an especially significant lift since Inkjet Superstore is a replenishment business with a high repeat customer rate and a very high conversion rate.
- The average order value of shoppers who interacted with TurnTo was 14% higher than the AOV of those who don’t.
- 16% of all purchasers answered the question “Why did you choose this item?” following check-out (through the TurnTo Purchase Sharing function).
You can see from the complete list of winners below, InkJetSuperStore is sitting in good company:
- Casual Male Retail Group (CMRG)
- David’s Bridal
- Foot Locker
- Hot Topic
- Inkjet Superstore
- Rutter’s Farm Stores
- Tasti D-Lite
- Urban Outfitters
And if winning the award was not exciting enough for InkJetSuperStore and TurnTo, George and I were at the Retail TouchPoints booth @ NRF on Monday as he accepted the award on behalf of ILan Douek, President of InkJetSuperStore, as Ilan was unable to attend.
Over here we like to say “When you connect your shoppers to your customers, good things happen!” and apparently that not only means conversion, loyalty and SEO for our customers, but now includes industry recognition…again, congratulations to InkJetSuperStore!
To learn how TurnTo can improve the metrics that mean the most to you and your business, give us a shout @ 908.752.9658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (yes, a shameless plug from me).
March 14, 2011 by George Eberstadt
Join us and leading Yahoo Store services provider FastPivot for a webinar on:
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT
Question-and-Answer systems are one of the hottest topics on the social web. Now learn how to use Social Q&A on your store to increase conversions, bring past customers back, improve your SEO rankings, and drive fresh traffic from social networks.
The goodwill of your customer base is the #1 asset of your business. Don’t leave it locked away. Adding Social Q&A to your store can release this untapped goodwill to generate more sales by connecting your shoppers directly to your customers. That’s what makes it “Social” – this isn’t just another customer service tool; this is a level of community engagement you’ve never seen before. Results include: – Shopper questions about popular items typically receive 3-6 answers from customers within 24 hours – 80% of these questions receive their first customer answer within an hour or two – 7% of past customers receiving a shopper question email return to the store to provide an answer – Shoppers who engage with Q&A convert at a massively higher rate – as high as 7X the baseline – Often produces more user-generated-content (UGC) than customer reviews with attendant SEO benefits During the webinar we’ll walk you through a number of live examples of Social Q&A in action on Yahoo! Stores. Register here