I recently came across a Nielsen report on social media that has a few illuminating statistics about online engagement and shopping. It turns out that Americans spend three times as much time on social media as on e-mail. Specifically, they report that Americans spend 7.6% of their time on traditional e-mail and 23% on social networks. In addition, more than 70% of social network users shop online, about 12% more than the average adult. And these social network users are 47% more likely to be heavy spenders on clothing, shoes and accessories. Wow.
Working closely with several large brands and retailers, I have been advocating for a while now the use of social product promotion as a way to bridge the chasm from “liking” to purchase, and these statistics just underline the reasons why brands need to evoke strong product strategies in social.
Social product experiences are similar to the old “microsites” and should be at the heart of any consumer marketer’s social media strategy. As we’ve learned with search marketing, customers need a “transitional” experience between ad (post) and purchase. It’s social product experiences that draw people through rich posts, engage them and ideally put them on a path to purchase. Social product experiences need to conform to the customer’s context — e.g. they must live as websites/Web apps, Timeline apps within Facebook or as mobile websites — and must fuse the best of:
- Rich and immersive product imagery integrated with compelling content and storytelling.
- Descriptive product information, reviews, and convenient and trusted purchase options.
- Social media as a vehicle for easy sharing and conversation, an integrated view into customer’s social graph, and the ability to provide exclusive access to products, offers and rewards.
When product experiences become this rich and integrated, and are focused on consumer benefits instead of just product features, marketers gain advantages in all phases of the marketing cycle, such as:
- Earned impressions and new customer acquisition: These experiences generate earned impressions from customer’s liking, commenting and sharing. Not only earned but personal referral impressions from friend to friend which are far more valuable. These impressions often bring new customers to the brand. I recommend that bought media be supplemental and used to accelerate momentum and sharing.
- Engagement and conversion: When done right, many customers will engage with products and content by exploring, commenting and sharing. Due to the mechanics of Facebook, some features require opt-in that allow the capture of demographic information, enabling marketers to connect Facebook and Twitter fans to their customer databases. Since engagement drives amplification, loyalty and purchase, these returns cannot be understated.
- Actionable insights: When a social customer is driven directly to the eCommerce store and they don’t buy (likely 97%+ of the time), very little is learned. However, when marketers drive consumers through a social product experience, they can capture behavioral and demographic insights and often the coveted opt-in to future communications. By integrating posting, experiences and purchase, marketers can close the loop on social-driven commerce and better understand and activate their most influential fans.
I like to tell people that to maximize returns they need to minimize investments. What I mean by that is this: Being active in social, you’re probably paying for management tools and campaign apps. You’re probably also paying big dollars to agencies to create custom microsites or apps and to buy media to drive traffic and awareness. This model isn’t sustainable or cost-effective when promoting products. Ideally, marketers should leverage technology solutions and partners that allow them to easily and repeatedly create and manage remarkable social product experiences across brand and seasonal calendars, easily promoting those experiences across all social networks, thereby decreasing investment and maximizing returns. Not only will you find your campaigns more efficient, but more effective at turning likes into purchases and lifetime value.
Marko Z Muellner is senior director of marketing at ShopIgniter and has been a digital marketer for more than 18 years. He has spent his time learning how digital marketing is applied at nonprofits, international digital agencies, dot-com startups, global sportswear and beer companies, and a top-tier Web analytics and optimization company. He can be reached at via e-mail at email@example.com and via Twitter @markozm.