How social media enables “just looking” customers to generate sales

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Image courtesy of elliemaeink.blogspot.com

Who is your most valuable consumer?

The one who buys the most from you, the one who generates the most margins or the one who spends the most time in your stores?

Think the answer is “the ones who buy from you the most”? Well, think again…

According to Sudhir Holla, a consultant at Infosys, the answer to the above question has changed in the last couple of years, thanks to social media.

In his post on a Forbes, Holla claims that social media has altered the traditional controlled customer experience to one that is more similar to Multi-Level Marketing (or MLM).

Multi-Level Marketing is a marketing strategy in which the sales force is compensated not only for sales they personally generate, but also for the sales of others they recruit, creating a down line of distributors.

In social media terms, this means the consumer’s voice has the power to influence others, helping to generate sales further down the line. So even though a consumer may just be “just looking” or browsing for a service or product, the fact that social media enables that consumer to spread an opinion about these services or products could help to generate sales further down the line.

This fact is particularly prominent on Facebook where discussions have centered around the fact that friends of fan on Facebook constitute an important incremental audience on Facebook – 34 times larger, on average, for the top 100 brand pages than the fans themselves.

So how do you leverage this trend? Identify your key consumers based not on spend alone but also by those who exert the maximum positive influence among your sector, audience, market or region, or by those who are influential about convincing consumers to buy the products or services offered by you.

4 key customer touchpoints where social media adds value

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Image courtesy of McKinsey

In order to use social media to influence purchasing habits you need to embed it at key customer touchpoints.

Using  McKinsey’s customer journey model as a base, we’ve looked at how and where you can use social media at key customer touch points.

1. Initial consideration

What’s happening at this stage?
Something has triggered a need for the customer to start thinking about making a purchase. The consumer considers an initial set of brands based on brand perceptions and exposure to recent touch points.

How can social media be used?
This is an important position for brands to secure. According to McKinsey, people are three times more likely to purchase a brand that was in the initial stages of their purchasing journey in comparison with those that were added later.

Social media can play a part in this early stage by positioning a brand in the forefront of consumers’ minds at all times. Stumbling across a brand on a Facebook page, reading a tweet about a good experience someone has had with a brand, reading a blog post or forum thread online about a branded product - not only does this  help spread word-of-mouth, but the brand that a consumer is most likely to recall is one that has a constant place in their mind.

2. Active evaluation

What’s happening at this stage?
The consumer is actively seeking more information about the products they have in mind. Consumers add or subtract brands as they evaluate what they want and don’t want.

How can social media be used?
Two-thirds of the touch points during the active-evaluation phase involve consumer-driven marketing initiatives - something which social media excels at.

Reviews and recommendations from “people like me” play an integral part of the customer decision making process. A good review by an influential blogger, or a comment by a social media influencer who appeals to the consumer audience can be more valuable than thousands of pounds worth of advertising. By interacting and engaging with influencers, brands can build up their presence and appeal among their target audience.

3. Postpurchase experience

What’s happening at this stage?
After purchasing a product or service,the consumer builds expectations based on their previous experience, as well as hands-on experience of product itself, to inform the rest of their journey.

How can social media be used?
Post-purchase relations are very important. According to McKinsey, more than 60% of consumers (of facial skin care products) go online to conduct further research after purchase and if a product is marketed effectively online, or has been reviewed or discussed in social media, its most useful functions and features can be discovered at this touch point.

4. Loyalty loop

What happens at this stage?
This is where a consumer moves from making a one-off purchase to developing loyalty with a brand

How can social media be used?
In today’s world consumers can influence marketing and opinions about brands and social media can be the glue that keeps customers loyal to your brand. A customer who has liked your Facebook page, follows you on Twitter and contributes to your company blog is half-way to becoming brand loyal. A careful balance of interaction with consumers through social media and a great product or service could be the extra step needed to maintain loyalty,  turning impulse one-off purchasers into loyal customers. Happy customers can also turn into brand advocates and focusing on retaining repeat consumers can help attract new or prospective customers.

Interested in learning more about social media and the customer experience? Why not come to the European Customer World Experience 2011 from 24th - 26th May. Register for tickets here.

The darker side of influence: stop delighting & start satisfying the customer

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At a recent customer experience event I went to I watched a presentation from a well known global brand entitled “Stop delighting the customer”.

It was a good title for a presentation as it got everyone in the audience to sit up and take notice - surely businesses should  focus on delighting customers in order to develop loyalty?

The main point of the presentation was that satisfying your customers, instead of delighting them, will increase loyalty in a way that is financially sustainable for a business in the long run.

Many big brands are attempting to use social media as a tool to delight. They monitor Twitter streams and pay more attention to comments from those consumers who are connected to larger social networks, or have higher Klout or other social scoring metrics, and they attempt to delight them. And there is nothing wrong with this as enaging with influencers in the right way can be valuable to your brand or business.

However, consumers aren’t slow at catching on to this and as more and more people leverage this treatment it could come at a cost to the business.

Consumers could build networks to leverage against better services that they haven’t paid for. A free upgrade, a better room, or a reservation at a booked out restaurant perhaps.  Already some hotels offer preferential treatment to those guests with a high Klout score.

All these things come at a cost to the operating business, particularly if they don’t have an engagement strategy for harnessing influencers to benefit their brand. If that’s the case, they’re just giving away freebies and hoping for some kind of return.

So while targeting influencers is an important part of your social media strategy, it is important to think about embedding social media in a way that improves customer satisfaction as a whole in order to get the most value from your social media activity.

Retention v acquisition - social media and customer experience

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Last week I spent a few days at the Executive Customer Contact Exchange networking event and it was really interesting to hear why social media is firmly on the radar of the customer service and customer experience directors that were there.

What did surprise me somewhat though was that among the 20 or so sponsors attending, which included big names such as SAP and RightNow, FreshNetworks was the only specialist social media agency to attend the event.

Does this mean that most of the other social media and digital agencies are still focused purely on social media marketing or social PR? Perhaps. Either way, customer experience directors would do well to think about what Joseph Jaffe outlines in his brilliant book Flip The Funnel.

In Flip the Funnel, Jaffe highlights that the focus of most marketing spend is usually around new customer acquisition and that only 20% of marketing budgets are typically spent on retention. Yet, in many cases, 75% of revenues comes from existing customers.

Jaffe goes on to argue that instead of ending with the customer as in the traditional marketing funnel, the funnel should be flipped so that it begins with the customer.

To me, social media is the ideal way of putting the customer first. It’s also the perfect way of using existing customers to gain new ones.

If your prospective customers see you as being  proactive, responsive and accessible through the way you engage with your existing customers, surely this will help to convert them. What’s more, using social media in this way will help develop advocacy among existing customers, and if  they are happy with their experience they are one step closer to becoming your brand advocates.

Perhaps it’s time for customer experience teams to harness the power of existing customers in order to encourage acquisition of new ones. Thinking about retention may be the key to new customer acquistion through social media.

Interested in learning more about social media and the customer experience? Why not come to the European Customer World Experience 2011 from 24th - 26th May. Register for tickets here.

Customer service is the new marketing

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HelpImage by LiminalMike via Flickr

We wrote last month about the Zappos story, about how they have used customer service to extend and enhance the customer experience and how this has had a positive impact on sales, satisfaction and growth. This example highlights the power of customer service - of listening to and then rewarding customers.

We know the real benefit that a brand can experience from engaging with its customer directly through online communities. Both in terms of the insights and ideas you can get from them, and also the way you can amplify word-of-mouth and build loyalty with them by listening to what they say and responding.

But even more than that. Customer service - listening to customers and having a direct dialogue with them - is a form of marketing. And an effective form of marketing at that.

This week’s Required Reading at FreshNetworks is a presentation Lane Becker from Get Satisfaction, delivered at Next09 that looks at exactly this issue. For Becker, customer service is marketing, and for brands who get this right, it is characterised in three ways:

  1. You put conversations at the centre of your business - focus on exchange of ideas and information, in your business and with your customers
  2. You get better at a smaller range of things - you can’t solve everything so you focus on the things that make a real difference to customers (which you identify by having a real dialogue with them)
  3. You break down silos - customers don’t see a business the way many businesses are structured, so when they want to interact with you silos can get in the way
Customer Service is the New Marketing (Next09, Hamburg)
View more PDF documents from Lane Becker.
  • Customer service is such an important job, perhaps we should spread it around (myventurepad.com)
  • Follow-up on “Get Satisfaction, Or Else…” (37signals.com)
  • Customer Service Is Defined By Customers (staygolinks.com)
  • next09: The Seven Rules of the Chief Meaning Officer (designmind.frogdesign.com)