I’m frequently asked “What’s the top challenge the corporate social strategist is struggling” and over and over, ROI comes up very high. To tackle this challenge head on, Altimeter has conducted a research project to find out how companies are connecting social technologies to the overall buying process as well as analyzing how they increase revenues for brands.
In conjunction with our recent conference on Social Commerce, we’ve now published the findings from interviewing top social commerce vendors and brands that are connecting commerce with social media. Our lead researcher analyst on this project is Lora Cecere who stems from Gartner and AMR and stems from Supply Chain Management, her and I will be doing a no-cost webinar to discuss these findings, I hope you join us.
This report is intended for you to use, share, and spread, under creative commons, feel free to embed it on your own blog, comment on it, and discuss. I look forward to hearing your feedback.
Left: American Eagle’s flagship retail store in Times Square allows shoppers to post their photo to the marquee for their “15 seconds of fame”, you can even read how some shoppers, like Bryan, from Birmingham, posts his photo for the whole world to see.
Smorgasbord of Digital at Times Square Makes it Hard to Stand Out
After finishing my keynote at PRSA, I’m here in New York’s Times Square, and witnessed first hand the closing of the square yesterday during a false alarm bomb scare (it was just an abandoned cooler, thankfully). After the Square was reopened a few hours later by NY’s finest, I got to sit down, and take in the digital sights and sounds. Although I’ve been here many times, Times Square is an amazing experience, no where else in the world can you see so many logos, brands, and ads bombarding you in full color digital experience. It was interesting as I took in the many logos that have been my clients over the years, and watched as even caused the night sky to feel as if it were dusk.
American Eagle’s “15 Seconds of Fame,” Attracts A Crowd
One particular marquee took my fancy, the American Eagle screen. This massive screen has two facing sides, giving a multi angle experience in blazing LED color boards. In between the “Summer of Love” campaigns showing scantily clad pubescent teens surfing and dancing on the beach, they showed how regular consumers (most are non-models, as you might guess) get the opportunity to go into the store, and have their picture taken in front of a beach setting and then be displayed in front of millions of people as they walk by. You can read about the details by agency R/GA and from Bloomberg. I’m going to assume innovation of digital screens will start right here in Times Square, then spread to other venues. This personalized experience allows actual customers and tourists to display their picture along with a short message to others. We should expect this will eventually evolve to allow personalized messages in store to appear.
Expect In-Store Screens To Evolve from Static To Customized and Social
What could the future hold? Expect stores to ask you to “Connect using Facebook Connect” to your mobile device as you step in the store. By doing so, you can receive customized recommendations on your phone and on digital displays. Expect that your friends that have been here, will digitally indicate which clothes are right for you. Expect digital displays to recommend what’s best for you based on what your friends ‘like’ (see how Levi’s is doing it on the web) then spread to in store. While far fetched, see this video of how Cisco expects to improve the buying experience. What about the risks? Expect privacy to be less important to millennials who don’t mind sharing their experience with others, and early prototypes to show customized content –without revealing a person’s full identity on an in-store screen.
Get Ready as Digital Displays Represent Consumers:
Yet with all of these changes coming in the future, I advise you to start here:
- To Do: Start With Your Website If you’re a retailer or chain restaurant, start experimenting now with how social can create a new experience on your website. See the case study on Levi’s as well as a detailed matrix of the different ways to integrate social on your site. Experimentation will take time, so start with a more controllable web experience before cascading to the real world.
- To Watch: Mobile Devices and Location Based Services: Watch innovation happen with digital displays, Microsoft Surface, Razorfish, and Cisco’s “Future of shopping” video, have all made early moves to demonstrate their experiments on this space. Before spreading to in-store digital displays, see how mobile social networks like FourSquare, GoWalla, and Facebook play to this space. See how Bing’s recent announcement on social shopping will become that ‘glue’ between web and the real world.
- To Plan: Our Pragmatic Research Report: The Altimeter Group’s Michael Gartenberg (mobile and device expert) and myself (social and customer) will be publishing a report on this topic in the near future, in the spirit of our previous reports under “Open Research.” Stay tuned at our blog, exciting times ahead, both on the computer screen, mobile screen, and digital screen in store.
Update: Facebook worked with Hershey’s to display Mother’s day photos in Times Square, see pics.
In the future, the difference between social networks and corporate websites will be hard to distinguish.
[With social recommendations, consumers can auto-populate a ‘shopping cart’ to their friends –even before they’ve logged into the retailer’s website]
HP’s social strategist Tony Frosty Welch gestured for me to check out Levi’s recent social moves, his instincts were right, this is unique. Two weeks ago, Facebook announced a crusade in social colonization to spread Facebook across the web, and we’re starting to see Levi’s take advantage of it. While most brands are only at level 1 of social integration, Levi’s has jumped to level 6 and 7.
Screenshot Breakdown: How Facebook Enables Levi’s Social Shopping
Awareness (Above Screenshot): Levi’s homepage indicates that it now has Facebook integration
Education (Above Screenshot): An intro video indicates how users can gesture they like a product, by “liking” it on the Levi’s site –even if they are not logged into Levis.com, you can watch the video also on YouTube.
Social Gestures (Above Screenshot): On each product page, Levi’s encourages users to “Like” the products, and uses standard social features from Facebook that prompt viewers to be the “First of your friends” to like it.
Social Commerce (Above Screenshot): Using the aggregated Facebook data, Levi’s creates a personalized shopping cart based on what your friends have suggested you’ll like, hoping to increase upsell.
Customer Demands Signals From Social Networks An Opportunity for Retailers
Levi’s has launched a promising marketing opportunity at low cost. By simply installing existing social features into their content management systems, they can increase the mouth of the marketing funnel, and benefit from word of mouth marketing.
- Your friends are shopping with you –even if they aren’t present. This has two major impacts: 1) Consumers real friends are part of the shopping experience –even if they are not physically present. 2) The level of engagement will eventually cascade to mobile devices in store, so eventually as consumers walk into a retailer that has Levi’s they could scan the product and see which one of their friends likes or recommends it.
- A more engaged user, without forcing them through registration. Registration forms are the bane of marketers: Most consumers disdain them, enter garbage data, and fall off as the forms get longer. However, As long as users are logged into Facebook they can do this even if they are not logged into Levi’s.com. This means that consumers can ‘like’ a product and engage with the Levi’s product and spread it to their friends on the corporate site and on Facebook. As a result, expect the mouth of the marketing funnel to be wider
- Consumers take part in marketing and recommendations, increasing upsell opportunity. Levi’s has had social shopping features on their site for some time, you can see the ratings, rankings and comments on each product page, yet in most cases, consumers don’t know who those reviewers are. Edelman’s Trust research indicates that customers trust each other or ‘people like them’ so this has the opportunity to increase. In theory there could be a great chance of up and cross sell as consumers rely on their actual friends to influence buying decisions. Expect celebrities with large followings to be more influential as what they ‘like’ will cascade over thousands.
- Social commerce vendors will integrate with Social CRM –yet should be cautious of user privacy. Social vendors like Bazaarvoice, Kickapps*, and Pluck and other customer rating tools that occur post login, need to quickly pay attention to this as it’s both a threat an opportunity. They should develop integration tools and integrate their social data with CRM systems (called Social CRM) to create new and unique forms of data that can anticipate customer needs. Facebook users aren’t fully aware of the long term impacts this has, expect some embarrassing and news worthy stories to appear where a consumer ‘likes’ a product resulting in an unexpected result.
The biggest opportunities are actually unseen. Expect savvy brands to use demand signals from consumers to indicate which products should be ramped up on production, distribution, and marketing, to learn more read my colleague’s blog on Supply Chain Management, by Altimeter’s Lora Cecere.
*An Altimeter client, see disclosure page. We hope you’ll trust our analysis more if we disclose our relationships.