How do savvy retailers get their e-Commerce engines to scale? By tapping their social customers. Infusing the e-Commerce experience with greater social interaction (eg: a way to share product knowledge, access to community content, ratings and reviews) drives higher conversion rates, more loyalty and greater profit.
The plain truth is that consumers trust each other far more than they trust brands, and that trust makes all the difference when it comes to purchase decisions. Social media has already made an indelible mark on the way brands market to and support their customers. Going forward, more and more retailers will be adding social to the commerce experience as early movers continue to demonstrate the big returns they have received.
The State Of Social Commerce
With e-Commerce set to reach $327 billion by 2016, brands are focusing on their social commerce solutions and strategies in order to claim as much of the estimated pie as possible. The smart brands know that online customers now expect to be able to access their favorite brands across the social web, and — more importantly — they expect to interact with brands on these public social networks for support, product information and interaction with their fellow customers.
According to Forrester Research, the e-Commerce influence, or the amount of purchases influenced online, is expected to hit $1.3 trillion, or 43% of all retail sales, this year. As brands realize the revenue potential of e-Commerce and its growing influence, they’re turning to the most influential tool in their arsenal: social media.
The Value Of Social Commerce
Social and commerce are not new concepts. In fact, the two concepts have gone together hand-in-hand for millennia. From “these rocks make the best tools” to “I’m crazy about this new mascara,” the fundamental impetus to share hasn’t changed. Social media just makes it extremely easy. Although the social media marketplace seems complex and confusing, it’s important to understand that it capitalizes on an age-old habit. Customers are not looking to engage with a brand through social media because it’s novel. They want to use social media because it’s a manifestation of their behavior.
To break it down further, social commerce is valuable for a number of reasons:
It’s relevant: Approximately 51% of today’s consumers use social channels to share their experiences with brands and products.
- It provides enormous reach: The 1.5 billion people who use social media can now interact with your brand anywhere without visiting your store.
- It drives awareness: 74% of consumers use social media to recommend products to friends. That’s a lot of valuable content that boosts SEO, which in turn drives awareness and acquisition.
- It drives long-term loyalty: Customers coming from organic search have a 54% higher customer lifetime value than the average.
- It increases profits: Enlisted social customers (those who curate, read or review brand content) are 250% more likely to convert.
Customers now expect to see a brand on social media sites. As many as 42% of social customers use social media exclusively for product research. If they can’t find a brand on social media, it won’t make it into their consideration set.
Social Commerce Success: Sephora And Pet360
Social media is a place for brands to develop identity, conversation and community. The problem with most brands is that they stop at identity. Their social strategies include being present at the usual third party sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), but they’re missing the bigger picture of ensuring that their presence is on-brand and interactive.
Here are a couple of great examples of what happens when brands embrace that social mantra:
When the number of Sephora’s Facebook fans started creeping up on the million mark, the high-end cosmetic retailer realized it needed a plan for deepening engagement with its social customers. Sephora was also keen to capture all of the great content and valuable insight that was appearing on their Facebook wall each day. The problem was that Facebook didn’t offer any path for getting there.
Enter Sephora BeautyTalk, the Sephora-owned destination for beauty enthusiasts to share their personal advice and product recommendations. On BeautyTalk, Sephora customers have all the room in the world for conversation and access to plenty of interactive opportunities with other community members.
Sephora community users spend 2.5X the average customer, and Sephora superfans spend 10X more than the average customer.
Facing rapidly commoditizing products and a price-sensitive competitive landscape, Pet360 realized the company needed to innovate on the digital experience in order to differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace. With two online storefronts, PetFoodDirect and NationalPetPharmacy, Pet360 already had strong e-Commerce expertise. They also understood the value of strong content with the success of their petMD property; the number one visited pet health and wellness site.
In 2012, Pet360 put these two core competencies together and recreated their mission to align with their digital experience aims: “To become the trusted, all-in-one authority that informs, educates and connects pet parents and helps them to become better pet owners.” In order to take advantage of the new opportunities of the digital and social era, Pet360 simply re-oriented their brand identity around conversation and community.
Pet360 successfully moved from a “marketing push” strategy to a “quality engagement” strategy. They stopped measuring success by how much digital content they pushed onto the world and started measuring success by improvements in average customer lifetime value and increased Net Promoter Score.
We’ve now entered the golden age of consumer influence, where anyone can quickly become an “influencer” by posting tweets, Facebook statuses and Instagram pictures. In order to create a meaningful relationship with the new social customer, brands will need to develop social media initiatives that cut through the noise and deliver highly targeted and useful content to their audiences.
As SVP and Chief Customer Officer, Misha Logvinov is responsible for leading Lithium’s strategic programs to ensure long-term customer success. Logvinov is responsible for continually enhancing and solidifying Lithium’s customer-centric culture by orchestrating the entire customer value chain across functions and geographies, and has direct responsibility for Lithium’s Support and Business Systems, IT and Customer Operations organizations.
With more than 15 years of experience in IT, operations, security and customer relationship management, Logvinov has been responsible for implementing hundreds of solutions for Global 1000 customers throughout his career. Throughout his career, he has supported millions of online users, managed complex back-office applications and built some of the world’s most secure online service environments.