So you’ve gotten lots of “likes” and “tweets” for your online store, but business has not really improved that much. Now what? If this were, say, a Soprano family enterprise, you could cozy up to your enemy’s enemy, knowing they could probably be turned into a friend. Instead, it’s just another fraught day at the online store.
Improving business is tied to knowing, not just your friends (and enemies), but their friends…and those friends’ friends. The key for online merchants is to understand both the social networks and online social activities of your site visitors and customers, says the executive of Chicago start-up The Echo System, which focuses on growing “return on social” (ROS), short for “return on social media.”
Sharing on Social Media
ROS riffs off of the phrase “return on investment,” (ROI) that perennial worry of all business owners. And, just like ROI, you need to know ROS to figure out how to improve the bottom line.
Social (at least in the online context) means a lot more these days than just “liking” and “friending” people, all the while tweeting about a one-day-only sale. For instance, it can mean examining the friends of those folks who “like” your store (they all have some), and what those friends of friends like, and whether your tweets are being re-tweeted, and by whom, says Lance Neuhauser, CEO of The Echo System.
The start-up firm, which debuted its latest ranking of socially-skillful firms at last month’s Internet Retailer Conference and Expo, is selling an increase on the “return on social” by analyzing existing data, and installing special proprietary programming that further examines the publicly-available social data of a given store’s customers.
But, Neuhauser notes that “social” is far more than “liking” and “tweeting” these days. So, what is it, exactly?
It could mean customers forwarding or sharing that special-sale notice or coupon you send to registered users. It might mean producing videos about your product, staff and store for YouTube, then tagging those in a way that captures the interest of likely viewers – but also sharers of that video, and commentators, too.
Who are those sharers, and where are they doing their sharing? That’s telling information, as well.
Gleaning Data about Social Interests and Activities
“Most ecommerce store owners don’t have a lot of insight into what their customers are motivated by, other than transactions,” observes Neuhauser. While store owners may have sophisticated CRM (customer relationship management) software from the likes of Oracle and Salesforce that produce copious data about sales, they do not mine the potential spider-web of interests and connections those sales may represent.
“We’re trying to tie the explicit data of CRM with the implicit data of the customer’s social interests and activities online,” says Neuhauser.
Thus, the questions store-owners need to answer to increase sales go beyond finding out who likes your store, and why. Rather, it’s what else those customers do with their time online – presuming the information is public – what they like other than your store, and with whom they are chatting or interacting online. This information can offer new insights into where you must advertise and how to reach out to customers, both in and out of the store.
It’s all fair game: everything from the ubiquitous Facebook posting or “liking” of a celebrity having a tough year, to the sharing, emailing and recommending of other web content, to emailed questions about products, and their abandoning that shopping cart last Friday with one item in it, he adds. This information helps build customer profiles and a sharper sense of the right online advertising buys.
Turning Data into Action
Neuhauser notes that within a given store, the touch-points offer myriad ways of connecting socially with a customer, and finding out more about that customer’s online social proclivities:
Pre-Purchase: When customers have just arrived at the site and are selecting content to read, view or listen to, it’s time to start gathering info. If you have a blog, a customer forum, or interesting content that provides product information beyond the simple description, this is where you can find out more about a visitor’s preferences.
Shopping: That white t-shirt buyer could represent any number of possibilities. Those shirts might be going under a dress-shirt or, as Neuhauser notes, “I could be a sports fanatic, and you found this out about me by pulling in the social data – where did I come from, what do I like to do on the Web.”
Transaction: “Not everyone who buys something is motivated by money,” says the start-up chieftain. Gift-buyers, status-conscious consumers, brand fans and brand obsessives all have their reasons for buying merchandise and services, Neuhauser said. Understanding their motivation by mining social data provides the opportunity to maximize profit.
Post-Purchase: Returns eat sites alive. “Twenty to forty percent just blows my mind,” states Neuhauser. “Millions of dollars in returns are just crazy.” Social intelligence and social support can lower than rate, he contends. Buyer’s remorse can be limited through follow-up, customers helping customers, developing helpful site content, and better social outreach.
Loyalty: How do you get that customer to return? It’s the age-old question for physical and virtual stores. If you don’t have a loyalty program, asserts Neuhauser, you need to create one.
Although The Echo System does not publish its price list, Neuhauser says that his deals with clients usually involve initially installing some free analytical software on the client’s website to demonstrate the kind of information he can pull out. More analysis, and more programming by Echo System, is charged. The company uses the “software-as-a-service” model, so the Echo System programming is cloud-based, and requires payment of a regular fee.
The message of ROS? If you want your customers to return…better start thinking about “return on social media” now.
This post was original appeared on ‘Ecommerce Bytes’
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