Social Media Talk Is Cheap, but Where's the Sale? [Research]

  |  March 5, 2012   |  Comments

Social media can help marketers drive sales by building brands, surfacing additional purchase choices, and answering pre-purchase questions by engaging with prospects and customers.

Marketers are allocating more of their budgets to social media, but their investments aren't necessarily yielding the results they hoped for. Before you jump to the conclusion that social media doesn't work, it's important to understand what it can and can't do.

Social media can help marketers drive sales by building brands, surfacing additional purchase choices, and answering pre-purchase questions by engaging with prospects and customers.

  1. Offers more product options. For marketers, this means you can reach new markets via social media (and so can your competitors!). As a result, marketers need to put their best foot forward when presenting their product. Even better, you may be able to get help from your customers on various social media and commerce platforms. Actionable marketing tip: Strut your product's stuff. Select the social media platforms where your offering can shine, whether it's a blog, video, photographs, or presentations. Create content that lures prospects in. Here's where you can go one step further and link to your product.
  2. Creates new tastemakers. By leveraging social media's relatively low cost, anyone can become a trendsetter without requiring the reach of a Martha Stewart. Further, with new social commerce options such as Fab.com and Svpply.com, buyers are provided with more choices and can be more selective in their buying.

    svpply

    Actionable marketing tip: Smart marketers can use these platforms to expand their reach by partnering with or creating their own sites around the trendsetters in their market. Target partnered with Marie Claire's Nina Garcia of Project Runway fame to create alluring content around their product on Tumblr.

    nina-s-obsessions
  3. Provides ratings and reviews. On social media, there's no hiding a poor product. Face it - your prospects and customers will let others know whether your offering's worth the money or not. The Hans Brinker Budget Hostel in Amsterdam is an example of how to turn a negative into a positive (depending on your point of view).

    hans-brinker-budget-hotel

    Before they purchase, shoppers check for ratings and reviews; one-third check prices in a retail establishment. Actionable marketing tip: Engage customers after the sale to gather their feedback. Be prepared to resolve any issues you may uncover in the process.

The problem is consumers use social media to socialize, not purchase. As a result, social media commerce choices like F-commerce haven't yielded the results major retailers like Gap and Nordstrom expected causing them to shut down their social media commerce.

Because a social media presence doesn't magically translate to sales, marketers must connect their social media efforts to their purchase process. In order to close the sale, you must incorporate the following three elements where appropriate.

  1. Ask for the sale. Any good salesperson will tell you that it's critical to ask for the sale. E-commerce is no different. To this end, you must integrate an effective call-to-action (CTA) into your social media content. Actionable marketing tip: Calls-to-action aren't one size fits all. Create contextually-relevant CTAs and highlight them with color and/or graphics.
  2. Provide mechanism to track sales. Less than two out of five marketers can track sales or leads generated by their social media efforts. To drive and measure social media effectiveness, unique tracking codes must be integrated into each social media platform and initiative.

    social-media-metrics

    Actionable marketing tip: Test your systems' and analytics' ability to track these codes and capture the information before you start the campaign.
  3. Offer mobile purchase options. Given the ever-present nature of smartphones, it's a marketing no-brainer that retailers must offer customers mobile options to research product, purchase, or call. This translates to having a streamlined, fast-loading mobile website. Don't just assume your regular website will load correctly on someone's phone. And, don't overlook the need for a mobile app. Your competition may get the sale while the customer's in your store!

    cross-channel-shopping-behavior

    Actionable marketing tip: Allocate some of your search budget to mobile search. Include your physical address and phone number in these ads to aid on-the-go shoppers who are looking for this information only.

Social media does a great job of showing off your products and getting prospects talking. This is great for getting potential customers into your purchase process. To close the deal, however, you need to have a streamlined conversion process on your website. (BTW - this doesn't give you permission to transform a social media presence into a one-way marketing promotion platform.)

What other recommendations for closing the sale in a social media context would you add and why?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.

Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.

Her blog, HeidiCohen.com, was nominated as a finalist for Top Social Media Blog of 2012 by Social Media Examiner.

Heidi is also a popular speaker on current industry topics.

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