Social media’s growing influence on consumer decision making and overall brand sentiment offers retailers a prime opportunity to build trust and communication across Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites. Best-in-class retailers are utilizing their most loyal shoppers, or brand advocates, to drive social recommendations and consumer-to-consumer dialogue.
Livescribe — a mobile computing platform offering “smartpens” that capture handwritten notes, audio and drawings — tapped into its brand advocates to boost social buzz. By partnering with Extole, a consumer-to-consumer social marketing platform, Livescribe identified more than 3,000 brand advocates and increased average order value by 34%.
Through the Extole social referral program, Livescribe offers brand advocates $15 (via PayPal) for each friend or family member they drive to purchase a “smartpen.” The merchant promotes the campaign via its web site, Facebook, Twitter and blog. Additionally, current brand advocates receive information on the program through dedicated email blasts as well as welcome and order confirmation emails.
A social referral program is “a scalable way to not only harness and activate loyal users' passion for the product, but also reward them for being such incredible brand ambassadors,” Steffanie Johnson, Director of Global Marketing for Livescribe, told Retail TouchPoints. “Loyal customers also have the opportunity to extend a discount to their friend and colleague circles; it's a win-win for the referrer and the referee.”
Livescribe brand advocates share social coupons and refer friends, family and colleagues directly through Facebook and Twitter, as well as personal emails and URLs. This intimate dialogue between customers and their social graphs increases brand trust among prospective customers, Johnson added.
“The social component of the referral program offers unparalleled amplification of not only our brand, but also the ‘stamp of approval’ of our brand from someone within specific social circles,” Johnson said. “This strategy makes all the difference in the likelihood that peers will pay attention to and perhaps purchase the ‘smartpen.’”
Since its initial rollout in November 2011, Livescribe’s social referral program has generated more than 9,700 social shares across Facebook, Twitter and email, increasing the brand’s presence throughout the web and driving traffic to its e-Commerce site. Additionally, Livescribe has been able to boost overall conversions by 18%. The merchant’s social referral program also has increased overall cost-per transaction, Johnson reported. In fact, an Extole-influenced customer has an average basket that is 51% bigger than the average online shopper.
“In the six months since we launched the Extole program, it has become one of the key strategies for our demand generation and conversion programs,” Johnson said. “We continue to expand the presence of the Extole program on the web and in our social media, email marketing and other outbound marketing programs. We also test new messaging in order to keep the program fresh and top of mind.”
Using Brand Advocates As Social Ambassadors
Due to the continued proliferation of social media, ratings and reviews, and other forms of user-generated content, it is vital that retailers not only track what shoppers are saying, but also reward customers for their loyalty and advocacy.
Prior to partnering with Extole, Livescribe marketing team members noted the organic enthusiasm and positive feedback brewing across social channels, Johnson explained. As a result, the company needed a solution to “activate enthusiasts and allow them to easily share the benefits of Livescribe,” she said. “The question was: How do we activate this user base and reward these advocates for spreading the word about Livescribe to ultimately drive awareness of the product and increase ‘smartpen’ sales?”
Livescribe is not alone: Retailers across many markets and segments are seeking strategies to tap and inspire loyal customers to educate and enlighten friends and followers on social networks about specific brands and items, as well as sharing details on retail experiences.
“Consumer-generated content and word-of-mouth are becoming critical to any brand’s marketing strategy,” Angela Bandlow, VP of Marketing at Extole. “Consumers are more powerful than ever before, making it imperative for brands and marketers to launch social initiatives that harness the influence of their customer advocates.”
Because social referral programs allow advocates to share the brands and items they covet, friends and family are more likely to trust and respond to messages and offers, Bandlow added.
“Any time a company can get customer advocates to talk to their friends and social communities, it can amplify awareness and reach a broader audience,” Bandlow said. “Due to the fact that these recommendations are trusted and come with social context, they are much more likely to garner prospect attention. Companies with loyal, passionate customer bases can use social referral programs to drive awareness and significantly grow their businesses.”