Written by Thierry Costa, Vice President of Marketing, SLI Systems
Thursday, 15 December 2011 14:59
Social network sites have become the online equivalent of the family living room or local coffee house ― they’re the place where people hang out with friends, share news and trade suggestions for products and services. Since social networks and user-generated sites like YouTube are where your customers spend more and more time, and because search is one of the highest-converting features of an e-Commerce site, it makes perfect sense that you should take steps to blend these two capabilities. Doing so will allow you to meet your customers where they are, and also make it easy for customers to find social content about your products and services on your own site.
For instance, fans of your Facebook page may be having conversations about their experiences with your products, or may be posting how-to videos on YouTube. Ideally, this content should be easily accessible to customers via search or navigation on your site ― the faster they find social networking content, the faster they can make buying decisions and complete purchases. In addition, by driving customer traffic to your Twitter, Facebook and other social networking pages, you’ll encourage shoppers to add even more social content for other customers to discover.
At the same time, you can build tools into your social networking presence that encourage customers to browse your retail storefront ― for instance, by adding site search to your Facebook page.
Follow these tips for providing greater accessibility and visibility to your social networking content:
Incorporate Social MediaAnd User-Generated Content Into Site Search Results. Like most retailers, you’ve no doubt created online places for customers to share information and comments about your products and services, such as blogs, YouTube channels, Flickr photostreams and Facebook pages. Make sure that this content shows up in site search results, since it helps create a richer picture of your retail offerings. It also helps shoppers conduct research before they buy, encouraging them to place products in their shopping carts and complete the purchases.
If you’re blessed with a large supply of social and user-generated content, consider breaking out these site search results in a separate tab. For example, Yarn.com, a retailer of knitting and craft supplies, provides a tab for social networks results, including user videos and reviews.
Add Site Search To Facebook Pages. Your Facebook fans can do more than read and post comments when they visit your page ― they also can browse for products. Add a search box to Facebook to help fans search and shop directly from the social network, instead of requiring them to leave Facebook and go to your online storefront. This helps strengthen relationships with fans that combine shopping with social networking.
Chaparral Motorsports, which sells motorcycle gear and parts, took this approach on its Facebook page: once people click on a product they have found via site search, they are taken to the company’s online storefront via a new browser window to purchase the product. Make Me Heal, an online retailer of anti-aging products, takes a similar approach, offering a Facebook search experience that’s very similar to the site search on its own website so that the search experience is consistent. Another option to consider is when search results appear directly on your Facebook page, you can allow visitors to “like” given results, which means their other Facebook friends will see their selections.
PutFacebook, Twitter And Google +1 Buttons On Product Pages. To help build awareness of your retail offerings across social networks, make it easy for shoppers to share products they like with their social networking friends. In addition, “like” buttons can improve your page’s ranking on Bing and Google. Artbeads.com, an online retailer of beading supplies, includes Facebook and Twitter buttons on every product page.
Get more mileage out of these buttons by incorporating each product’s number of “likes” and “+1s” into your site search results, and let visitors reorder results so products with the most “likes” are ranked highest.
Include User Ratings And Reviews In Site Search. User ratings and reviews on your site offer a smart way to show visitors what other shoppers think about your products. Making reviews available in site search results adds value in the same way as social media content: it helps shoppers do their research and make buying decisions more quickly.
You have several choices for highlighting ratings and reviews in search. For instance, you can display star ratings in search results and allow visitors to sort or refine results by the number of stars, so they only see highly rated products. You can also allow visitors to navigate and search through reviews, which is helpful for products that have many reviews. Abe’s of Maine, an online camera and electronics retailer, provides a “browse by user feedback” link at the top of site search results, which allows shoppers to explore reviews by such criteria as user rating, “used by” (e.g., photo enthusiast, casual photographer, professional), “best uses” (e.g., weddings, scenery/landscape, low light) and “best features” (e.g., fast, lightweight, durable).
By broadening access to social media and user-generated content, you not only supply shoppers with helpful information about your products, you increase the odds that they’ll share your storefront within their own social networks[LPC1] . It’s a form of free advertising that goes a long way toward attracting new customers and building loyalty with current ones.
As Vice President of Marketing, Thierry Costa is responsible for SLI Systems’ global marketing efforts as well as driving growth of SLI’s search technology and services in the e-Commerce and publishing industries.