Tighter Integration Between Ecommerce Websites and Social Media Sites is Essential


Share on LinkedIn

Let’s start with understanding the mindset of a consumer and your social media brand. 
Consumers ‘friend a brand’ for these primary reasons: 
•    to give feedback, praise or complain
•    for service 
 but the largest reason by far is to receive special offers and promotions.
This represents a massive opportunity for online retail and consumer companies. But no one is really taking advantage of it. For the first time, brands can identify, engage and recognize their advocates. Your fans have sought you out and are proactively ‘opting in.’ They want engagement and specifically are looking for special treatment, offers and promotions. What a gift horse!
There’s lots of evidence that demonstrates that, for online marketers at least, 2010 will be the year of social media marketing.
A Duke University study shows that marketers are planning to increase spend on social marketing by over 60 percent in the period from August 2009 to February 2010. That’s a big jump in only six months! More so is that marketers are planning to spend almost 10 percent of their total 2010 budgets on social marketing, indicating that this type of marketing has become mainstream. [Note: Study shows 11 percent is going to traditional BtoC marketing.]
Next up in proof points is a recent acquisition announced Monday; ESP provider ExactTarget acquired CoTweet, an 18-month old start up, signaling a potential consolidation of the rapidly proliferating social media tools with more traditional online marketing. We should expect this to be the first in a series of acquisitions in the space.
ExactTarget’s motivations are also significant in that they signal a shift towards delivering customer service through the social media channel. ExactTarget has long espoused that online marketing is increasingly about delivering service, not just messaging, to customers. This acquisition fits elegantly into that strategy. For more on the ExactTarget ‘service’ philosophy take a look at this whitepaper which is a series of interviews with their senior executives and their thoughts for 2010.
But while budgets may be on the increase and social media tools are getting integrated into mainstream online marketing, most marketers are floundering without a social media strategy.
According to Forrester, 64 percent of marketers use social marketing as part of their strategy, but the majority simply use it for broadcast messaging. Take a look at the Safeway wall on Facebook, and you’ll see what I mean. At least Safeway is responding to customer comments (even if in a very defensive way), which is more than I can say for most sites today.
Defensive customer service and broadcast communications are frankly just a stop gap, primarily because online marketers are still figuring out how to engage without opening the floodgates.
It’s not immediately obvious how to engage with individual fans, but the starting point can be found in tighter integration between websites and brand pages on social media sites.
Where we should look for guidance on how to engage with our brand advocates is to the well proven field of loyalty marketing. Take airline loyalty programs, for example. Every time you fly, your transactions are automatically totted up until you earn different levels of privilege. These levels of privilege reward and recognize the airlines’ best customers, leading to long term, mutually beneficial customer relationships.
Of course in the airline world, you have to sign up to their loyalty program. The airlines have also been very late to adopt social media. Think about these two worlds being joined up: When a customer becomes a friend of your brand they are essentially signing up. You may not yet think about your social media presence as a loyalty program, but in essence this is exactly what it is, combined with the ability for members of the club to interact with each other.
Thinking of your social fans as potentially loyal brand-advocates opens up a whole range of interesting possibilities:
•    Recognizing different customer values (membership tiers, with associated differing levels of service)
•    Encouraging advocacy programs (member-get-member style programs)
•    Rewarding advocates (when your fans advocate your brand, perhaps by sharing with their network)
•    Nurturing engagement (direct communications to stimulate engagement, purchase and advocacy)
What’s missing of course is a real integration between the web channel and social media. Most websites proudly sport ‘Follow us’ banners, but lack both an integrated strategy and the physical integration between the two domains.
Facebook, Twitter and MySpace all have API’s which allow ecommerce sites to integrate social media customers into their ecommerce experience. What this means in practice is that you can begin to link fan membership with behavioral data: frequency and recency of visit, and purchases. Your customers can log into to your site using their social network credentials, and (in the near-future) pay and checkout with any other form of registration required, making the purchase process dramatically easier.
Clearly this is a big vision and will not happen overnight. But the starting point is back to those API’s. Enabling your customers to at least log in to your website using their accounts to sign up for the discounts and promotions that they want is at least a start on the road.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Charles Nicholls
Charles Nicholls is a social commerce expert and board advisor to several e-commerce startups. He founded SeeWhy, a real-time personalization and machine learning platform, which was sold to SAP. Serving as SVP of product, he built SAP Upscale Commerce, an e-commerce platform for direct-to-consumer brands and the mid-market. Today, Charles serves as chief strategy officer for SimplicityDX, a commerce experience company. He has worked on strategy and projects for leading ecommerce companies worldwide, including Amazon, eBay, Google and many others.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here