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.