Why have a Facebook shop?

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Online fashion retailer ASOS recently announced that it would be opening a Facebook store at the end of January, allowing users to buy items directly from within the social network rather than having to click through to the ASOS homepage.

This is becoming a trend for major retailers and we will see more of it in 2011, but is it a fad or is there real reason to take this form of social commerce seriously?

A report from Experian shows that ASOS gets a lot of its traffic from social media sites. In December their Social Networks and Forums category was the third biggest source of traffic to the retailer’s website, accounting for 14.62% of all traffic to ASOS.com. Social networks also seem to endear more brand loyalty for ASOS than other sources of traffic: 65.5% of the visitors coming via the channel were returning to ASOS rather than visiting the site for the first time. By way of comparison, 56.9% of customers that came via search engines were returning visitors.

Facebook is clearly a very big part of the social networking visits delivering traffic to ASOS, and alone is responsible for 12% of all visits to the website. As the second single biggest driver of traffic to ASOS after Google UK, Facebook has become an integral part ASOS’s online strategy; allowing consumers to buy products directly from Facebook is the next logical step for ASOS.

Keeping consumers in one place for any period of time online is challenging, especially given the millions of other websites available for people to visit. The same report highlights that the average session time for a visit to ASOS is just over 12 minutes and interestingly their Search Sequence tool shows that the number one search term that UK Internet users type into search engines, both before and after ‘asos’, is ‘facebook’.

When people online are navigating away from ASOS, the first thing they want to check is Facebook. So if people can shop through Facebook, then they have no need to navigate away from their familiar surroundings. As the average session time for a visit to Facebook is 27 minutes, it could be argued that consumers are more likely to hang around to shop through Facebook than they are on the ASOS site.

The Facebook store is due to go live by the end of January and, although this may lead to a drop in traffic coming from Facebook to the ASOS store, overall the company will expect to offset this decline by making additional online sales that it would not previously have captured. With nearly 400,000 followers on Facebook, ASOS has a huge captive audience to target.

FreshNetworks will be monitoring what happens to see how successful the campaign has been, and what lessons should be learnt.

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Facebook for fashion brands - it’s about more than the product

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WaveMetrix have published their review of Q4 2010 social media trends and it highlights some interesting moves for fashion brands using social media, especially Facebook.

Burberry and Lacoste joined Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton and Gucci with a greater focus on brand-related content, such as music and sport which positively affected engagement, brand sentiment and purchase consideration.

Burberry, by running their Burberry Acoustic music campaign alongside content on the Burberry clothes collections, have succeeded in engaging consumers with the wider culture of the brand and this significantly increased consumer discussion. You can see from the pie chart below which areas the audience were engaged around.

Lacoste use a mix of fashion and non fashion content, such as their ATP Tour sponsorship to engage consumers and positively affect sentiment, as this pie chart shows.

That trend is not universal however. The report also highlighted that for other brands engaging consumers closely on product range can drive purchase consideration, with Xbox and BMW notable winners here.  Zara on the other hand, with its focus on product discussion, failed to drive notable purchase consideration – which shows the importance of the right strategy.

As an aside, a new report I saw recently, which will feature in another post, showed that a high percentage of consumers ‘Like’ competing brands on Facebook showing that on social networks genuine brand loyalty is hard to come by.

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New Facebook profile page

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image via shutterstock

Here's looking at you. Image via shutterstock

Facebook have just launched a new redesign for profile pages. OK, they don’t really launch it until tomorrow, but you can get an early look by going to http://www.facebook.com/about/profile/ and clicking on the green button in the top right corner. User experience is important in social media and Facebook are clearly hoping that this fairly radical overhaul of the profile area will improve the experience the many millions of Facebook members have.

There are a number of modifications. And they go beyond basic design tweaks. Alongside a general move towards more imagery, key changes in the new facebook profile page include:

  • A new introduction - Facebook have put photos of you front and centre
  • Featured friends - make your most important relationships clear. This one could lead to fights (I seem to remember it being like that back in 2005)
  • Experience sharing - this appears to be an effort to encourage people to share experiences and highlight the most important ones
  • Improved browsing of your social graph - helping you navigate friends of friends and build more connections

You can read more at the Facebook Blog which covers the profile page update. Or watch this short video

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Niche communities and the future of social media in financial services

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Young & Free AlbertaA few weeks ago we held a senior executive round table event in order to debate the future role of social media in financial services.

One of the key topics that we discussed was the rise of niche online communities and how this will impact financial services brands in the future.

The current situation

Over the last few years there has been a rise in financial services communities that are on the long tail. In other words, there has been an increase in online communities that focus on a very specific audience rather than appealing to a wide range of clients and consumers.

Several banks have chosen to focus their social media strategy on one section of their customer target base. Royal Bank of Scotland, one of our clients, has developed a niche online community called Keep Britain Biking to appeal to  motorcyclists in order to encourage customer interaction with their Devitt insurance brand. Barclays bank is using a niche community called 100 voices to appeal directly to students with the promise of a community that contains information “written by students, for students”.

Young & Free Alberta, an online community powered by Servus Credit Union,  also utilises the “youth” niche community idea.The site aims to give 17 to 25 year olds  a head start with their finances by providing them with useful, relevant information about their financial requirements.

Not only is the site aimed at a specific demographic; it  is also aimed at  a specific region - Alberta, Canada. And with  ‘Young and Free’ initiatives in Alabama, Mississippi, Ontario, South Carolina, St Louis, Tennessee and Texas, all powered by local banks, these niche communities clearly aim to capture people at a time when they are selecting their first bank account. By building up a relationship with a young target audience, the Young and Free communities are engaging with customers in the early stages of their financial planning with the hope of then building up a life-long commitment to their bank or institution.

The Young and Free Alberta community uses blogs, forums, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook to encourage discussion. It also contains lots of relevant information and activities – like inviting people to an open-air movie -to attract its key audience.

The site also contains an “ask the experts” section to answer the financial concerns and queries of their target market in a timely and appropriate manner. The community manager has videos, blogs, comments and a very visible presence on the site, perhaps as way of further positioning the bank as a voice of authority.

What does the future hold?

Considering the rise of the niche community in financial services, indications for the future direction of social media in this area could include:

  • An increase in targeting specific groups based on demographic. Social media could be used to uncover and engage more with micro communities, based on key demographic segmentation, that are enthusiastic, passionate and keen to become customers.
  • An increase in targeting specific regions or areas. Social media could be used more to target regional rather than global areas. Local branches of banks and other financial services institutions could use niche communities, based on location, to attract new customers by appealing to people near to, or in, their own physical space or location.
  • A decrease in corporate communities. As communities become less “corporate” in feel the will move away from using the direct branding, look and feel of the institution they represent. Instead the branding, tone and style of the community will be dictated by the needs and requirements of the people they wish to target rather than the bank or institution itself.
  • Niche communities will become more social. They will utilise more user generated content and will form the hub of all social activity, from blogging, to Facebook, to Foursquare, as well as whatever other new tools arrive on the social media landscape. Niche communities will form the permanent base for social media activity - a space which can grow and develop in line with both market changes and new developments in social media technologies.

Our next blog post will look at how social media is helping to develop customer driven markets and what this means for the future role of social media in financial services.

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Social media case study: Habbo hits ten years

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Image courtesy of Ivan Walsh.

Habbo, the world’s largest teenage online community, has recently celebrated its tenth birthday, proving that sustainable success can be achieved with online communities.

The first version of Habbo was rolled out in August 2000, followed by an English-language beta version in January 2001. Ten years on, Habbo (previously known as “Habbo Hotel”) has a staggering 176 million registered users, with 15 million unique visitors per month.  In the UK alone it reaches 15% of the total teenage audience and receives more than 1.1 million unique visitors per month.

So what lies behind Habbo’s success?

Timo Soininen, the Chief Executive of Habbo’s parent company, Sulake, has said that Habbo’s continuing success is down to keeping “the service fresh and relevant by frequently introducing new features and gaming elements, arranging engaging campaigns, enriching the virtual economy and payment models and nurturing the community.”

What Soininen seems to be saying is that the Habbo community continues to thrive because of careful, considered online community management and innovative content. Keeping up with cutting edge social and digital trends helps to keep the young audience engaged.

It’s likely that Habbo also benefits from Sulake’s expertise, as the social entertainment company often carry out in-depth market research, listening and analysis to gain insights into the the needs of its audience and to understand the type of material they will engage with. This is probably also the reason why social gaming and social entertainment is a key driver in shaping and developing the community.

Some of Habbo’s success can also be attributed to the intelligent joint marketing activities it has carried out with teen-friendly consumer brands like Cheetos, or, more recently Capri-Sun, where on-pack advertising encourages consumers to visit Habbo.co.uk where they can access ‘The Capri Sun Summer Theme Park’ branded room.

Habbo has also entered partnerships with media brands such as MTV and Myspace, helping to promote the site amongst its key target audience. And with Habbo’s own annual survey of 49,000 teenage users proving the claim that 32% of teenagers would never pay for content online, the fact that membership to Habbo is free is an additional way of enticing teenagers to sign up.

And the community continues to grow as these statistics from June 2010 show:

  • 172 million avatars created
  • 3 million new characters created each month
  • 120 million user-created rooms
  • Average user session lasts 42 minutes

Read more of our Social Media Case Studies

Image by Ivan Walsh via Flickr

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