Monday, July 1, 2013

Social Media for Good XI

According to Mashable one government agency, the Interior Department, has Instragram figured out. This image is of the super moon in late June. "Beautiful photo of the #Moon over #TurretArch in #Arches National Park last night." Take a look at their site, see the number of views and comments, and make your own assessment. Don't the images make you want to visit some of these places? And maybe submit a photo to their summer contest? Notice that the contest is posted on the White House blog. Interior has a news page, but I don't find a blog. The White House would probably have more followers anyway!

Their Instagram page has over 50,000 followers, another testimony to the power of the channel. And their social media concentration on Instagram suggests a good understanding of the channels available.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

In-Store Customer Tracking: Innovation or Invasion?

How retailers can best compete in a digital world is a vexing subject. Recent news items on stores like Home Depot and Nordstrom using customer tracking technology in their stores caught my attention. Depending on your point of view, this is either another useful ma
nifestation of big data or a big invasion of privacy!

The technology goes by various names—hyperlocal, in-store tracking and in-store positioning are common descriptors.  Geofencing is a related retail tool that performs slightly different locational functions by indicating when a person enters a specified area. In-store tracking allows stores or malls to monitor your movements while you are on the premises, producing Google Analytics-type metrics like which departments in a store people visit and how long they stay in each. A heatmap from one of the technology providers, YFind, shows a mall application—visitors and unique visitors to specific stores and “dwell time” for each visit.

Euclid is the technology used by Home Depot and Nordstrom, although Nordstrom describes its use as “a test” that provided useful data but has now ended. The chart shows how their technology works and most 
of it is straightforward. A shopper enters the store, her smartphone automatically pings looking for wifi, the system captures the phone’s MAC address to identify the shopper, then uses it to send repeated pings to the cloud as the shopper moves around the store. MAC address is the thing I had to look up; it’s the ID permanently burned into every device that can connect to the network.

The fact that all of this is done without active participation by the shopper, in fact without the shopper’s knowledge, is whatbothers privacy advocates. The systems suppliers insist they only collect and provide anonymous data to their customers. You be the judge.

Recently Ad Age interviewed Dennis Crowley, founder of Foursquare. The video contains interesting speculation on “reinventing retail” including the prediction that users could soon be automatically checked in when they enter a store. I wonder if users will be comfortable with that, but the video is worth watching. 

If you want to up the creepiness factor, consider the possibility of providing leads to retailers as consumers enter the store. According to Media Post, a start-up called Purple Cloud monitors consumer activity with regard to a  ”specific product on a Web site, which triggers an email to the retailer and a photo of the consumer taken from their social network profile.” The retailer can then send a tweet or email to the prospective customer, presumably as he enters the store. On the face of it, that is seriously creepy. However, the customer must download the Purple Cloud app to make this all work, so that may be a mitigating factor. Watch for more on this emerging technology.

For sure, we are going to see more changes in the in-store shopping experience! Whether they will result in genuine privacy problems remains to be seen.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Social Media for Good X

May 3 was World Free Press Day, celebrated by traditional and digital media around the world. UNESCO's 2013 prize was awarded to  Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu who is currently in prison for writings critical of the government. She worked for various traditional media outlets and eventually founded her own magazine. The Electronic Freedom Frontier points to the case of an Etiopian blogger, Eskinder Nega, just sentenced to 18 years in jail for similar "crimes." Freedom of the press is a digital issue as well as a traditional media one.

This map from Reporters Without Borders via the Guardian newspaper shows the status of press freedom around the world. Content creators in all media spaces are affected by press freedom or lack thereof, and supporting freedom of the press around the world ia important to all of us.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Social Media for Good IX

Here's an interesting tweet from UNICEF in the UK. Matt Rhodes from Fresh Networks tweeted it, saying it's at the edge of social media.

I agree. It's a compelling call to action, and a reminder of the limits of social media.

Or is it a reminder of the reach of social media?

Either way, it is definitely creative fund raising!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Is Social Commerce the Next Big Thing?

There have been high hopes for e-commerce on social platforms almost since the beginning. For instance, I wrote about pop-up stores on Facebook a couple of years ago. There are current uses of the pop-up store, but they all seem to be classified as retail events.

What is the state of actual social commerce? One prediction, captured in an infographic, seems to extrapolate the reach of social platforms to an estimate “50% of Web Sales to Occur Via Social Media by 2015.” Given what we can see in mid-2013 that seems to be a wildly over-optimistic prediction.

Here are some recent developments and announcements:
• In January Facebook announced that Stipple technology would be available to create interactive images on posts and in ads. Stipple technology is similar to Thinglink, which I tried out in a post a few months ago. I repeat my warning that you must own the image in order to lawfully use it for this purpose. (Note: Thinglink was added to the mix in April).
• Pinterest continues its rapid growth. I read one article that called it a “virtual shopping mall.” Since it is easy to use it is especially attractive to small business. Much evidence suggests it is very effective in driving traffic to retail sites.
• Perhaps piggy-backing on the success of Pinterest are other visual sites.  Some that are drawing considerable investor interest are:
  - Polyvore is touted as a “social discovery” site where fashion shoppers create and share sets of images. It is experiencing rapid growth and is reported to have a higher conversion rate from referrals than Pinterest.
  - The Hunt which allows members to post images of items they like and ask other members to help them locate the items at retail. Its current revenue model is not clear.
  - Wanelo “Want, Need, Love” is another visual site in which users create their own feed based on products they like. The site appears to be driving traffic to retail sites. Whether affiliate revenue is sufficient to sustain the site or whether it can develop as an actual e-commerce site is still an open question.

These sites have one thing in common. They are currently being used to drive traffic to retail sites, not as e-commerce platforms. That is probably positive for ad revenue; e-commerce is still arguable.

 A newcomer that is clearly a social e-commerce platform is Chirpify. It describes itself as the only in-stream social commerce site.  According to Chirpify, users can buy, sell, or fundraise on the site. They accept PayPal as well as a variety of credit cards, but I wonder if others will be concerned about the security of transactions.

It is clearly a hot space! Existing and new platforms are likely to continue driving a growing amount of traffic to e-commerce retail sites. However, actual e-commerce on social platforms doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to 50% of web sales, nor does it appear that it will approach that by 2015!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Is Social Media Key to Customer Experience?

 Is customer experience the overriding strategic marketing concept in the age of social media? It’s a chaotic marketing environment made up of customers with all kinds of needs and usage habits, multiple screens, myriad channels of communication, and exploding content, both marketer-generated and user-generated. The concept of customer experience links all of these together into a unified system that results in a satisfied customer, so I argue that it should provide ultimate guidance for marketers.

What is a definition of customer experience that marketers can use as a guide? There are a lot of formal definitions, but I like what GM VP Alicia Boler-Davis said last year. She explained that GM has expanded its definition:

to include what happens before, during, and after the sale – instead of just what happens in the dealership.
“We’re no longer thinking about a vehicle sale as a transaction or a singular event. . . We’re thinking about it as part of a relationship between the customer, the dealer, and GM.
“Put another way, the customer experience begins long before our products make it to the dealer showroom.  It begins with our very decision to build a vehicle… and involves every customer touch point after that.  It involves the entire enterprise.”

Ok, that’s not a new concept; relationship marketers have been preaching it for years. But it is incredibly challenging in the face of today’s myriad—and growing--number of customer touchpoints. Social media marketers know well that the content in many of the social touchpoints is controlled by customers, not by marketers, and that complicates the situation.

The PWC graphic illustrates just how hard it is. Their Digital IQ survey revealed that 66% of US online adults use social media; 59% of respondent companies have provided mobile tools for their employees, but only 37% (30% of top performers) make use of external social media communities. Businesses are far behind their customers in the use of social media, which isn’t exactly news!

Here’s a Forrester graph that makes the role of social media clear—and more than a little scary! Above the dotted line in this customer experience journey map the Forrester team shows many customer touchpoints—you can think about what they are for your business. Some touchpoints make the customer happy, others do not. Already the customer experience is not “seamlessly satisfying”—the marketer’s ultimate goal. The unhappy customer doesn’t leave it here, as so often happens these days. She tweets out her frustration.

Below the dotted line we see that the only internal process visible to this customer is social media! And one can intuit that the social media team does not have the skills, or even more likely, the organizational power to tweet back in a manner that satisfies the customer’s complaint. The customer’s problem has not been resolved by the channel she chose to use—social media.

What does it take to develop a customer experience strategy that results in seamless satisfaction? A Forrester blog post lists six necessary elements:

Strategy. Forrester says:

The strategy discipline is your game plan. It's a set of practices for crafting a customer experience strategy, aligning it with the company's overall strategy and brand attributes, and then sharing that strategy with employees to guide decision-making and prioritization across the organization.  . .The customer experience strategy defines the intended experience.

Customer Understanding. Need we say more? Understanding the customer is the marketer’s basic job description. To what extent are your customers using social and mobile media? How is this affecting their search behavior, their shopping behavior and their purchasing?

Design. Whether it’s a wonderful product or whether it’s a website that not only looks pretty but works well, good design is important in an age that seems increasingly visual. Think again about the statement from GM, above.

Measurement. Don’t all digital marketers preach the importance of measurement? I still like the old quality management phrase, “what gets measured gets managed.”

Governance. Business policies must focus on customer satisfaction and lead to the internal policies that create it. Creating good customer experience is a job for all employees at all times!

Culture. Good governance leads to a culture of openness and transparency that creates an environment in which customer centricity can flourish. That just happens to be the same type of culture that encourages successful use of social media.

So I repeat my initial argument: customer experience strategy should be the cornerstone of marketing strategy. These 6 elements, however, make it clear that the organization as a whole is the player in customer experience with social media able to play a key customer-facing role. So marketing needs support from the top levels of management if it is to execute a meaningful customer experience strategy.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Social Media for Good VIII

Health-related websites and social media networks are certainly not new, but they seem to be growing in popularity. According to some interesting statistics on All Facebook, health-related pages represent a burgeoning category on Facebook. In fact, they increased in number of pages in the third quarter of 2012 by more than other fast-growing categories like travel.

Health related social media can perform many functions from providing support to patients and their families to raising money. The feature on Living Kidney Donors Network on local TV caught my attention last week.

This is a great example of direct and worthwhile action prompted by a Facebook post. Hear the story on the WCVB video.

Remember that it's not the size of the page by any measure; it's the good it does. And take the good being done by this social network  page as a happy thought for the Easter weekend1

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Migration to Mobile III--All Shopping Can Be Local

It used to be a sign that you were cool with current technology; you did research on your computer before heading to retail stores to shop. That’s no longer true. Now shoppers can use their smartphones or tablets to get the information they are looking for right at the POP--and maybe a coupon to boot! That is a powerful concept and it is driving profound changes that go all the way down to the individual retail location.

It doesn’t start when the shopper nears the store or walks in the door, though. It starts by building a meaningful SoLoMo strategy. One interpretation of the mobile shopping funnel captures the essence.

Social marketing helps build—or maybe for the small local retailer builds all by itself— awareness and a positive brand image. Retailers use tactics ranging from paid advertising to instore promotions and events to lure followers to their social platforms. Mobile marketing—whether paid ads or content marketing—reaches people when they are actively researching a purchase or provides a triggering cue by suggesting a reason to purchase. Local marketing reaches them at the point of purchase, giving them compelling reasons to buy at that moment.

Adding another dimension to that argument is data about the role of various types of shopping apps during the 2012 holiday season. The huge growth is seen in retailer apps and the lowest growth in the daily deals apps, whose difficulties have been much in the news. I wrote about the Macy’s shopping app during the holidays. The mapping application still seems to be available only for the Herald Square store but deals, wish lists and other retail services are going strong. At the moment they are offering me a 20% off promo code, which might be useful, and a bridal registry, which definitely is not! My initial reaction was “so much for personalization,” but how do they find out unless they ask?

The data also highlights another important mobile issue. Price comparison apps also experienced explosive growth. Showrooming—checking prices in stores then buying more cheaply online—seems to be ongoing.

But there’s good reason for local retailers not to hit the panic button. The trend can be their friend! No less a retailer than Walmart is encouraging people to use their phones in stores. Wired explains it well:

Walmart’s stores are “geo-fenced,” which means the location-aware app enters “store mode” when you walk through the door. Once in store mode, you have access to an interactive version of the weekly on-sale circular for that store. You can see what’s new in the store. You can scan bar codes with the phone’s camera for prices and keep a running list of everything you’re buying so you’ll know the total cost when you get to the register.

How can retailers without Walmart-level resources turn showrooming to their advantage? The advice from the Retail Customer Experience site is:

1. Embrace omnichannel.
2. Bring the best of online shopping into the store.
3. Implement innovative in-store technologies.
4. Empower in-store personnel.
Putting it all together they say:

Innovative in-store technologies can help shoppers engage with brands and create a great, enjoyable shopping experience that leads them to both return to the store and to act as brand ambassadors through social media, leading to more visits from their peers.

Very interesting—it all comes full circle. Use both the human touch of your store employees and the power of technology to give your customers a great shopping experience and they will share it with their friends on social media. Like all good advice, it’s easier said than done, but the guidelines are there!