The debate around the business case for social continues to rage. Respectable business figures are arguing both sides of the issue with unbridled passion.
While some of these positions are provocative and garner a lot of attention, they're not terribly useful for informing good decision making, as they largely miss the kind of key insights and data that provide a balanced perspective.
In my previous columns, I laid out a practical approach and data supporting the business case for using social to drive sales. In this column, I expand the frame to include an applied framework for brand, marketing, customer service, and insights.
The need for such a discussion became apparent during a recent reading of Forrester Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru's "State of Retailing Online 2011" study. There were two statistics that stayed with me because they indicate widely held misperceptions about the value of social. In the study, when online retailers were asked, "To what extent do you agree with the following statements?"
These responses are due in large part to poor strategies, a lack of programming coordination, and a failure to capture real business return. I'm betting Amazon and eBay were not included in this study, given that in October 2010, they received 7.7 percent and 4.7 percent of traffic from Facebook, respectively. Even if that traffic converted at 25 percent of their conversion rate (but I suspect it was higher), that's real money to be plugged into a business case model!
The reasons the business case for social is unclear include:
The organizations that are getting real business results from social have made meaningful traction to solve these key issues.
I've introduced two key frameworks that have been adopted by executives at financial services, media, retail, travel, B2B, and branded manufacturing companies. These frameworks address all the key issues listed above.
In summary, a business case in social is emerging. I advise executives to:
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Cathy has over 20 years of experience in both multichannel and online retail and a deep understanding of consumer needs and goals. Cathy's proven track record spans a range of industries and companies, from start-up ventures to multibillion dollar operations. Cathy is currently a Board Member at Ulta Beauty (ULTA), the largest beauty retailer that provides one-stop shopping for prestige, mass, and salon products and salon services in the United States. She has served as SVP, marketing & sales at PowerReviews, the world's most widely deployed social commerce platform, where she was responsible for overseeing the company's rapid customer and revenue growth. Prior to PowerReviews, Cathy held executive-level positions at Walmart: chief marketing officer Walmart.com, vice president of market development, global e-commerce, and vice president of product management and multichannel integration. Ms. Halligan has also held executive positions with leading retailers Williams-Sonoma, Gymboree, and Blue Nile, and was an associate partner at Prophet, a leading management consulting firm. She started her career as a marketing coordinator at Lands' End.
For real-time social commerce news and updates, follow Cathy on Twitter at @CathyHalligan.
March 19, 2014