As I write this column, figures for online sales for the 2011 holiday season are starting to pour in. If the surveys and forecasts are correct, it looks like retailers will have a strong year. In fact, comScore is reporting sales are already up 14 percent year-over-year for the first 20 days of November and sales are expected to reach $27.6 billion in December, a 15 percent gain over last year. While these figures are without a doubt stronger than the 2009 to 2010 (12 percent) season, many experts agree this year’s diligent planning due to the tough economic conditions including earlier promotions, extended store hours, and free shipping offers, as well as better integrated marketing with social support has contributed greatly to getting Americans to open their wallets. So with less than 30 shopping days left, what should every brand be doing now to keep the momentum moving into 2012?
- Welcome and say thank you. As you tally receipts and analyze the data, be sure to ready and fine-tune your post-holiday community efforts and communications. That includes identifying new customers, dormant customers who came back, lapsed customers, and brand advocates. Be sure to invite these customers to become members of your social communities, thank existing customers for their patronage, and recognize brand advocates for their support. Consider leveraging this intelligence to kick-start post-holiday sales pushes with viral programs starting immediately through December 25.
- Survey and build buzz. In a world where people increasingly turn to others for the things they need, a positive endorsement can be your best and most trusted sales tool. Consider a post-holiday survey and encourage those who had a great experience with your product or brand to share it in the community and across the social web.
- Schedule a post-holiday analysis/learnings meeting. If it’s not on the calendar yet, it needs to be. Run the numbers to determine what impact your social media and community efforts had on overall sales. Look at lift and contribution to sales, consumer feedback, and program engagement. Additionally, analyze the competition’s efforts and summarize learnings. Be sure to build cross-functional teams involved with building and supporting your social community efforts and remember to include “new ideas” for 2012 to get the ball rolling early. Last but not least, share your learnings with key consistencies including internal teams, brand/product managers, executives, and strategic and agency partners. Thorough collaboration and better communication, you will be building a solid foundation for success in 2012.
- Create an innovation budget. Dedicate a portion of your 2012 budget to test new ideas and social media programs, networks, and technologies. As we begin 2012, we’ll no doubt continue to see the emergence of new community players (Google+ brand pages) as well as the continued expansion and maturity of others, making them viable community platforms. Be sure to set aside an adequate budget to support the build-out of such platforms and the testing of new programs including but not limited to new programs on location-based services, augmented reality players, and more.
- Establish a measurement framework. I believe 2012 will be a critical year for marketers as it concerns social media measurement. While the growth and expansion of social media marketing continues, much of it can best be described as experimental. In 2012, brands will get serious about social media marketing as its impact and influence continue to grow. As a result, leading brands will dedicate more time to building social media measurement frameworks to better track and analyze the impact of their social media efforts on their brand. Measurement frameworks will include looking at such key metrics as:
- Awareness. Reach and impressions
- Interest. Views
- Excitement. Likes, comments, +1’s, @mentions
- Advocacy. Shares, retweets, testimonials, endorsements
- Conversion. Attributable sales
- Economic value. Upsell success, multiple product ownership, increase in satisfaction/likelihood to recommend, loyalty, multi-channel engagement, lifetime value
So little time, so much to do. But by paying a little attention to post-holiday community building and empowering your community to share their positive experiences with others across the social web, you’ll be making two important steps to driving revenue and success throughout 2012. Combine these efforts with some post-analysis, innovative thinking and testing, and a focused attention on measurement, and you’ll be winning invaluable friends and support internally as you drive competitive advantage for your brand for years to come.