How to Leverage Social When Visitors Are Shopping Onsite?

February 27, 2011 by John Swords

This is a reprint of a guest post I wrote for ZippyCart, originally published there on February 22.

Beyond marketing and customer service, Social has the power to help convert visitors on retail sites. A large majority of online retailers today are using at least one of the most popular social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. These platforms have been used for brand marketing and customer service. Retailers are beginning to explore their utilities as sales tools. When it comes to selling, these platforms are in essence today’s equivalent of shoppers signing up to direct mailing lists. Shoppers give retailers permission to reach out to them and share information. Shoppers allow retailers to reach out to them directly, by following retailer tweets and Facebook wall postings, and indirectly through their friends in the form of retweets, friends’ postings, and friends’ likes.

Reaching out to shoppers through Facebook and Twitter, much like direct mail to shoppers, works at the wide end of the sales funnel. If successful, it draws the shopper into the store, with a buying intention. It drives traffic. Most online retailers stop there. When they do so, they leave a lot of value on the table, the value of utilizing the power of social beyond traffic, as the shopper is moving along the sales cycle- browsing products, seeking further information and insight about products, and adding products to the shopping cart.

When a shopper is going through your online store, you should let the collective social wisdom and experience of your entire customer base help them complete the sale. This can be done in a number of ways, according to where the shopper is along their decision making progress.

A new visitor might be hesitant about buying from your site. They read copy on your site that is at its core a set of claims and promises, and they need to decide how much they can trust your editorial voice. A likely question going through their mind at this time is “do other people trust this site?” “do other people shop here?” “do I know anybody personally who has already bought at this site?” You, the retailer, can help by letting the visitor see other real people who shopped on your site before. You can earn extra trust points by providing visibility into people in the shopper’s zip code, or in the shopper’s circle of social contacts, without, of course, ever going beyond the level of visibility such people had authorized.

With a comfort level in the store that’s high enough, shoppers are ready to start considering your products. As in physical stores, some shoppers come in to browse, while others walk in with more specific product buying intentions. Browsers tend to be socially curious about what products people are buying around them. Some online retailers help these browsers with a display of the best selling items. Another way to support the browsers’ product discovery phase is by letting them see what other individuals recently bought. This can be done digitally in a socially convincing way, without breaching any shopper’s privacy – you can show initials of shoppers, profile pictures of those who joined your “customer wall”, and full identities of social contacts of the shoppers that have opted in to be there for their friends. Emitations, a leading retailer of silver jewelry, displays a “see what your friends bought” button on its home page, its category pages, and all of its product pages. Visitors to Emitations who interact with the button convert at a rate that’s more than 5 times higher than those who do not.

Next, and only one step removed from the shopping cart, your shopper might have product specific questions. Retailers provide an array of resources here, from details product information, product images, through how-to videos, to live chat that chimes in when it’s clear the shopper needs advice. All this might not be sufficient in such cases where the shopper is not looking for hard factual data, but for a color commentary from others who have used the product. Ratings and reviews have been added in recent years as the first layer of social input by the individual item. Recently some retailers have gone one step further, and empowered their shoppers to reach out to the broad social circle of product owners, and ask product specific questions. Answers to these questions provide buyers with social insights that cannot be gleaned from product information, ratings and reviews alone. One such retailer is Club Furniture that added an “Ask people who bought this” button on their product description tab. Club Furniture’s tool allows shoppers to reach out to the retailer’s entire customer pool, with questions that are best answered socially such as how comfortable a piece of furniture is, and how it wears. 13% of ClubFurniture’s customers who receive a shopper’s question answer it. (This means that a question which is sent to 40 customers will receive, on average, 5 responses.)

Embedding such social tools within an online store lets you harness the power of social beyond driving traffic, and throughout all key decision points along the on-site buying process.

Social Commerce insights from the TurnTo – FastPivot webinar

August 27, 2010 by George Eberstadt

Together with our partner, leading Yahoo Store builder FastPivot, we produced this webinar on Social Commerce strategies on Wednesday.  Here are all the slides plus the complete audio (controls are just under the slides). Thanks to the many attendees! The

FastPivot part runs through slide 35.  They provide a broad overview of social media marketing packed with actionable recommendations.  Starting at slide 36, we do an 18 minute discussion of Onsite Social for e-Commerce.  If I do say so myself: it too is insightful and practical.  Enjoy!

View more webinars from FastPivot.

New whitepaper out: Onsite Social for Online Retail

May 27, 2010 by George Eberstadt

After over a year in the market helping a few dozen innovative online retailers add social shopping features to their stores, we thought it was time to synthesize and share the big lessons we’ve learned.  So here [drumroll] is our new whitepaper: Onsite Social for Online Commerce.  In it, we get specific about things like:

  • How to leverage social networks for Social Merchandising within your store
  • How to most effectively encourage shoppers to share news of their purchases with their social network friends
  • Why adding Social to ecommerce sites requires different strategies than for content sites
  • What sort of results are realistic to expect

We’re just putting it out there – no registration required to get it.  If you find it thought-provoking, we hope you’ll get in touch with us and pass it on to others.  Enjoy!

For ecommerce sites, “Like” is OK, but “Bought” is much better

April 21, 2010 by George Eberstadt

First: we wholeheartedly agree with the ideas underlying Facebook’s big announcements today. People want to be able to interact with their friends on sites all across the web, not just within Facebook.  And sites don’t all want to have to become Facebook apps to support this.

TurnTo has been working to enable contextual delivery of social networks on ecommerce sites since our founding in 2007.  And we’ve proved that the benefits for both shoppers and merchants are significant.  So we applaud Facebook, appreciate the validation that their heading in this direction provides, and are already hard at work incorporating their new API.

We also think that to derive maximum advantage from an Onsite Social strategy, ecommerce sites should not rely exclusively on the new Like-based functions that Facebook is providing, but should – more importantly – leverage their purchase transaction data.  Here’s why:

It’s useful for your shoppers to see which of their friends know about your store and the products you sell.  Facebook’s API takes care of the problem of determining who you shoppers’ friends are.  But how do you determine what those friends know about?  Facebook’s new Like button lets shoppers register a connection to items on your store that they, well, like.  But Like does not equal know-about.  And many people who buy from you – and therefore REALLY know about you and your products, will never click Like.  In other words, there will be loads of false positives and false negatives.

If you were a content site, this might be the best you can do.  But as a commerce site, you have a unique asset: the purchase transaction.  You already have a massive set of people who really do know about you and your products, and the list grows every day.  They’re called: customers.

So go ahead and use the new Facebook plugins.  But also, and more importantly, leverage your transactional data to socialize the shopping experience on your site.  That’s where the big opportunity lies.