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Work Backwards to Get Social Commerce Results

  |  April 20, 2010   |  Comments

Start with what drives the final sale, analyzing what type of content drives your customers to make those purchases, then find ways to encourage customers to create more of that type of content.

When most companies begin a social commerce program, their first instinct is to rush out and try to accumulate as many customer opinions, reviews, stories, and feedback as possible. After all, beefing up the amount of customer-generated content about your brand or products is the first step to building a great social commerce program, right?

Well, not so fast. As I've explained before, social commerce is about connecting customers to customers online, then leveraging those connections for a commercial purpose. The goal of social commerce is to enable customers to contribute content with the objective of helping people get the information they need to make a decision to buy your product or service. As such, a social commerce program is measurable, operationalized, and optimized - and meets its goal of driving customers to make purchases.

So, the first step in a social commerce program is to think about which specific commercial goals you hope to accomplish by leveraging customer-generated content; and which particular types of customer-generated content will help influence your customers to make purchases. The idea is to figure out the type of content that will help your customers make better purchase decisions, and then encourage people to create that type of content on your Web site, your Facebook and Twitter pages, and on forums, communities, and blogs where your brand is present.

I call this process a "work backwards" approach to social strategy. Another way to think of it is similar to reverse-engineering a product, where the engineers look at the final product to figure out what goes into building the product. In the case of social commerce, you start with what drives the final sale, analyzing what type of content drives your customers to make those purchases, then find ways to encourage customers to create more of that type of content. It might sound complicated, but it really isn't. It just takes some analysis of the context of your market and customers.

Reverse-engineering your social commerce program is an ongoing process; you have to continually analyze and assess your end goals over time. But, there are some concrete tips to help you get started with a "work backwards" process.

  1. Write down the reasons, both tangible and emotional, that people buy your category, your brand, and your product. Write down why people would choose your competitors' product.

  2. Who are the customers you want, but don't have? What are the obstacles to obtaining these customers? Write those challenges down as well.

  3. Now that you've figured out why people buy your products, you can start thinking of the type of content that will help them make purchases. Ask yourself what type of conversations and topics would help your customers make more purchases.

  4. Think about where online your brand should host a conversation with customers. Determine customer contact points where you can invite and facilitate participation. This could be your Facebook Page, Twitter, or your own Web site.

  5. Create the context for hosting a conversation that maps back to those customer acquisition obstacles you wrote down earlier. Reviews have become a defacto requirement for retailers because everyone values customer opinions on products they are about to buy. But you can also ask customers to share a story, experience, answers, how-to tips, a video, a photo, or something that will be useful to attract other customers.

  6. Now find all the ways you can invite visitors or customers to contribute more of this content. Encourage them to contribute with sweepstakes, community recognition, and reminders that their contribution helps others.

  7. Finally, find all the ways to amplify this customer-generated content through paid search, SEO (define), Web, social, and e-mail marketing campaigns - promoting compelling content in every way possible so that it reaches a wide audience. The key to generating the most impact from your customer-contributed content is to make sure it reaches prospective customers who are not yet contributing content.

When you come at your social commerce program "backwards," you come at it from the customer's point of view. Find out what type of content is helping push customers from consideration to purchase, then encourage the creation of more of this useful and relevant content to help more customers make the same jump.

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Sam Decker

Sam Decker is founder and CEO of Mass Relevance, the leading enterprise social curation company. He speaks and consults on digital growth strategy, based on years of experience in technology and social markets. He has written two books on word-of-mouth marketing and is an award-winning blogger (www.deckermarketing.com). As former chief marketing officer of Bazaarvoice, the market leader in hosted social commerce applications that drive sales, Sam worked to help brands present the right user-generated content at the right time in the purchase path, bringing real value to the consumer and the business. Prior to Bazaarvoice he drove Dell's customer segmentation, their customer-centricity strategy, and led Dell's consumer website, building Dell.com into the largest consumer e-commerce site at $3.5 billion in annual sales.

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