Does Social Commerce Really Matter this Holiday Season?

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“Data Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Yuchun Lee, VP and general manager of IBM’s Enterprise Marketing Management. He was previously founder and CEO at Unica.

Marketers preparing for Q4 are no doubt keenly aware of the importance of a multichannel strategy, including traditional, digital and mobile channels. But where does social media come into play this holiday season?

Let’s be honest, social media hasn’t exactly been the shining star when it comes to online shopping. Many believe the fact that social commerce has stalled shows it isn’t worth the time and investment. Not true.

Consider the back-to-school season. In August, our research found shoppers referred to online stores through social networks generated 2.2 percent of all sales, an increase of more than 113 percent over 2011. While many students held off on buying to see “what’s cool in school,” some chose not to wait and turned to their social networks for this insight.

These gains aren’t earth shattering, but they point to the revival of social commerce and furthermore, indicate social commerce has an impact when it comes to customer feedback and the overall customer experience. To get the most out of social media this holiday season, I believe marketers need to pay attention to four basic rules:

  1. 1. Use a strong sentiment analysis tool: I think we can all agree, social media is a gold mine for customer input, but marketers need to be able to analyze that input. To really make use of social media and all its rich data, the CMO and their team must utilize some sort of sentiment analysis to understand customer opinions, whether they be positive, negative, sarcastic, etc. Sentiment analysis also helps marketers compare against their competitors by markets, providing valuable insight.
  2. Understand customer behavior on all channels: Marketers must integrate customer profiles from offline transactional data with digital and organic/owned media channels. To maximize the benefits that come with the social channel and with all channels, marketers need to understand how customers behave through each using all types of data.
  3. Run an integrated social campaign: In our recent State of Marketing Survey, 79 percent of marketers indicated they run social media marketing in silos, discretely and on an ad hoc basis. This is simply the wrong way to go. To really see the benefits of social media, marketers must coordinate all offline and online campaigns. Social media must be as much a part of your in-store campaign, as it is your digital campaign.
  4. Make it easy for your customers: Marketers need to create an environment in which it’s easy for customers to amplify the good news about your brand. Are your customers able to easily “like” you in the moment in which they are most satisfied with your brand? It’s as simple as embedding a like button, but also think of other creative ways your company can create an opportunity for a customer to provide their feedback and amplify the positive aspects of your company.

I’ll be the first to admit that social commerce has a long way to go before it catches up with its overachieving brother -- mobile commerce. But that’s not to say marketers should throw it out the window altogether. Instead, stick to the four rules I mention above and use social media for what it’s really worth – gaining valuable insight into your customers’ preferences, needs, wants, and experiences.

Follow IBM (@ibm) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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