At the end of last year, I travelled to Chicago for the SES conference. It was a great trip and everything from the flight to the accommodation and the conference itself included a number of highly personalised touches catering to what I needed.
The success of that trip was down to the hard work of the flight crew, hotel staff and conference officials – and to how these groups worked together. The idea of collaboration and communication underpinned the success of that journey, and I enjoyed a positive ‘customer experience’ because of it. This was real life rather than real-time, but the principles of communication, collaboration and delivering sales opportunities where and how the customer wants is what will drive social media in 2011.
The importance of leveraging a user’s social circle to encourage engagement is an essential part of all social media campaigns, yet we’re going to see that social media is not just about sharing connections anymore. In 2011, more so than ever before, social commerce with have a crucial part to play as retailers look to successfully market and sell within the social web. This also means a return for ROI as a basic business benchmark for social media. In the social age, ROI has been redefined to take into account engagement, relationship building and brand loyalty. The technology is now good enough for brands and business leaders to demand social media practitioners deliver both engagement and revenue success. This changes the social media playing field.
At a recent social commerce seminar in the US, the CEO of social technology provider Alvenda outlined an idea that centred on portability, personalisation and participation as the three key strands of social commerce. I think this really defines how a retailer needs to approach social commerce in 2011. With over 500 million active users, transporting your website’s shopping experience to your Facebook page will generate new sales leads. Once your store is open, the need to personalise your pitch to your customer is integral and this is where Facebook’s Open Graph protocol really impacts ecommerce. On a brand page, a user simply likes a brand. Yet by using a Like button onsite, a user can like a product category, a certain product range or an individual SKU. This makes the personalisation of your marketing message much simpler. The final piece of the social commerce puzzle is participation, where we harness a user’s social graph to distribute your store and sales initiatives, and really promote brand loyalty.
So, the Holy Grail for retailers is to create a social commerce strategy that turns friends into customers and customers into repeat customers, while creating a rich community combining conversation, collaboration and commerce.
I think social commerce will reach a tipping point this year and this will definitely change how brands adopt social media within their marketing strategy. However, we know that simply adding commerce to your social media strategy isn’t new and will not define you or your brand in 2011. We’ve seen examples of this as far back as 2009, when US retailer 1-800-Flowers.com became the first brand to produce a Facebook store. However, what will define your brand within the social space in 2011 is how you:
- build customer loyalty and social trust
- establish commerce leads via social technology
The use of mobile applications, geo-location services, loyalty and coupon programmes and augmented reality to join online and offline will define and establish a new shopping experience in 2011 and it’s something we’re very excited about at Summit.
We’ve established a protocol for using social commerce and we now need to address how users consume content, to understand the holistic development of what it means to be social this year. Getting heard in the current attention economy will only get more difficult. Retailers need to understand that achieving a “Like” or gaining a follower doesn’t guarantee an engaged audience, social trust or brand advocacy.
At the end of 2010, as part of Summit’s work with Comet and its new social portal Plugged In (www.pluggedin.co.uk), we analysed how users engaged with multichannel retailers. We found an opportunity to support the research, purchase and post-purchase phases by creating an editorially-led social platform. Summit identified supporting users and empowered them to validate opinion, inspire and help other customer’s select relevant products. This went some way to achieving the social mission of creating trust, loyalty and sale leads. We also took this a step further by enabling users to find relevant content for quick consumption, and allowing them to contribute to the content stream and develop connections on Plugged In. There’s still some way to go before Comet can fully realise the value of social commerce, but this activity does position the customer at the centre of social commerce and begins to fulfil what The Altimeter Group has called ‘Frictionless Commerce’.
Frictionless Commerce is an end goal for all multichannel retailers and I think this concept will have an impact on social media marketing throughout and beyond 2011. The use of social technology by retailers (as well as customers) is the basis for a new age for retail. Redesigning the shopping experience with the customer at the centre will trigger this new age. We’ll finally see a holistic customer-centric experience that combines ecommerce, m-commerce and social commerce strategies to benefit the customer both online and offline.
The Plugged In journey has only just begun to establish the connection between ecommerce and social. As with all earned media, the consumer will ultimately decide its fate: failure or success. At Summit, there’s a clear development roadmap that continues to work through improving decision-making, influencing influencers, personalising the experience and exploring the opportunities for multichannel retailers within this space. Being in the game to harness opinion, influence and support a purchase is an important strategic move – one that all leading retailers will have to consider if they’re to start monetising the opportunities social media now provides. We’re no longer looking at the social media landscape being defined by platforms, but by how brands choose to position themselves. How users consume social content, how brands take control of relationships, and how retailers nurture their own social communities: these are the important factors in 2011. How well you do it? They decide…
Summit’s Predictions for Social Media in 2011
- The use of Social Commerce will reach tipping point this year.
- A Facebook only strategy in 2011 will be destined to fail.
- Multichannel retailers will see the social worth of creating their own communities.
- Redesigning the customer experience with the customer at the heart of your strategy will reap rewards in 2011.
- Frictionless Commerce has to be the end-goal for retailers looking to prosper within the new social web.