The new features based on Klout technology will allow Lithium to accelerate its move into providing consumer insights to its customers.
Lithium Technologies says it will use Klout's profiles and perks technology to make it easier for brands to understand consumers and reward them. The company plans to start assigning Klout scores to products and then letting those scores pop up on merchant websites to help inform purchasing decisions - and also deliver discounts and offers that might incite a shopper to hit the buy button.
At its LINC user conference in San Francisco yesterday, Lithium demonstrated two new offerings that show how it proposes to integrate the Klout platform, acquired in March.
Klout for Products will provide a scoring system based on the reviews and ratings within a brand's community. For example, when someone is shopping on a retail site, a box showing how the product scored among consumers in different attributes will pop up.
In addition, individuals will have the option of including their Klout scores in their online profiles that are visible in Lithium communities and Lithium Social Web. This feature combines tech from both Lithium and Klout. Lithium already provides community tools to let consumers rate and review a brand's products on the brand website.
In a conference presentation, Lithium chief product officer Tapan Bhat pointed out that, with so many consumers doing reviews, it's hard to know which reviewers to trust. For example, a sushi restaurant with high ratings on Yelp was mostly rated by students, who are more concerned with price and portion size than quality, so a Yelp rating would not make sense for a more affluent sushi gourmet.
While Lithium has always helped deliver trusted content, Bhat said, "With the addition of Klout, we get to add a second piece, trusted people."
Lithium already allowed community members to give a "kudo," an online thumbs-up, to reviews they found particularly useful. With the kudo system, "The community is saying this is valuable content," says Lithium chief marketing officer (CMO) Katy Keim. One criticism of Klout scores in the past, she notes, is that there was no way for others to give feedback. "We have that," she continues. "So, now…the Klout score is not about how often you post but about how useful you are and do people find you an expert?"
The second new product is Advocacy Pop-Up Communities, which will let marketers create one-off communities based on a single campaign, product launch, promotion, or special event, although they can also be attached to a permanent community. Pop-Up Communities let brands use Klout Perks to incentivize consumers or reward loyalty.
There are also "action widgets" that will let marketers gather consumer insights and deliver real-time offers to encourage purchasing or sharing. The first three that Lithium proposes to build are a "want" button, a responsive wish list service, and product ratings. In a demo on the conference stage, someone looking at a TV online was presented with a widget asking what price he'd pay for the TV. He set a price lower than the listed price; soon, he received an email with an offer to buy the TV at that price.
Keim says merchants might be leery of price-cutting like this, but they could use these widgets to find out, for example, what colors consumers would prefer.
The review widget aims to provide a quicker way for consumers to rate products by clicking on a few attributes, rather than logging in and writing a review - and to gather more insights for the brand.
Brands could look at the "wants" dashboard to identify people who are willing to pay close to the asking price for their particular product and also see their average Klout scores. Those with the most Klout could be offered a discount or other rewards using the Klout Perks infrastructure. "They'll talk about it and drive more sales," Bhat said.
Consumers' Klout scores will not be automatically translated to brands' websites or databases; they will need to manually opt in to have these included. Lithium may also allow consumers to use Klout as a single sign-in, Facebook-style, to brand communities. If someone does choose to use Klout to sign into a Sephora community, for example, Sephora would not have access to personal profile information developed from behavior in other brand communities.
"Klout is careful with its privacy and insights. None of the networks that participate have access to data beyond the Klout score. I think we'd keep a similar model," Keim says.
Lithium plans to deliver the new products in the third and fourth quarters of this year. Keim says the Klout integration will let Lithium accelerate its move into providing consumer insights to its customers. She says, "Our technology is fabulous but people are trying to sort out what is going on with the customer. There became a moment where, if we really want to be experts, we want to have a consumer network. It's a huge acceleration of where we were going but it gives us credibility and data insight. We can tell you what consumers want."
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
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