Knowing that 3 out of 4 Americans use social technology – visiting social sites is the 4th most popular online activity (ahead of email), and spending time on social networks has tripled in the past year – it is obvious that social media is here to stay. But how can you leverage this ambiguous media outlet to help you and your business?
So far, the First Insight team has addressed the importance of not only including but also engaging customers in your business decisions. We know consumers are willing to participate in conversations about your products. But we also know consumers at large are savvier and no longer accept being “spoken at” by the media. They are exposed to blogover 3000 advertising messages each day and have learned to “tune out” those messages that are not relatable. Fortunately, social media enables retailers to transform broadcast monologues into social dialogues. The idea is customers who first share their feedback, and then listen, and then share again, are committing to more than just transactions. They are developing deeper relationships with your product.
Over the past year, more and more companies are beginning to understand the advantage of strategically using social media. In “Social Media: The New Front Row of Fashion,” Wall Street Journal writer Lauren Benet Stephenson explores the phenomenon of social media use throughout the fashion industry. “What began as a tepid courtship between fashion and social media has become an all out love affair,” she exclaims. From Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and Tommy Hilfiger streaming live runway shows to Oscar de la Renta and Tory Burch using Facebook and Twitter to update followers, never before has the idea of sharing been so prevalent. But these leaders are going well beyond simply “sharing.” They are incorporating the ideas of “listening” and “learning” to their strategy. For example, during Tommy Hilfiger’s show streaming, fans were asked to vote on their favorite looks and to provide personal feedback on designs.
Those in fashion are not the only ones taking advantage of the growing social media phenomenon. Take for example, Best Buy, a company that “chirps” with customers via Twitter to give technology advice. Best Buy also uses video blogs to engage consumers beyond the world of text. Companies embracing the social media revolution are benefiting from active integration. According to a recent statistic from the International Herald Tribune Technology conference, when engaged in active social media integration, brands reported as much as a 25% return on investment.
Please keep an eye out for next week’s final insight email in the “When Uncertainty Isn’t an Option” series. We will be focusing on how to efficiently measure, and ultimately maximize, your products/designs performance.
In the first edition of “When Uncertainty Isn’t an Option,” we addressed the impact consumers have in setting trends. We know that fashion is no longer a top down industry and customers must be included in the decision-making. But the question still remains… will they want to participate?
“Harvard Business Review’s Advice in Going Beyond Transactions”
According to “Rethinking Marketing” recently published by the Harvard Business Review, never before have customers expected to interact so deeply with companies. They truly want to shape the products and services they use. At the same time however, commitment to products has never been so weak. A recent research study by Leo Burnett Worldwide shows that 80% to 90% of people are willing to trade off or trade down when it comes to shopping. The HBR concludes there must be a focus shift driving transactions to maximizing customer lifetime value in order to stay competitive.
Fortunately, today retailers have the technologies to directly interact with consumers, creating a forum to learn what their customers want. Take for example your neighborhood grocery store’s loyalty card. Upon each visit grocers can track what their customers buy and how they choose to pay for products. This information helps grocery stores tailor merchandise to local tastes and customize offerings at an individual level. Loyalty cards are an extraordinary way to collect information about customers shopping and products found already in the store. But what if you could know what customers will buy? Would knowing this information upfront help deliver on expectations, increase satisfaction and strengthen overall customer value?
First Insight’s powerful predictive analytic technology helps forecast a product’s performance before it is sourced or brought to market. We give you a clearer sense of demand by integrating customer feedback into buying decisions, well surpassing the direction provided by historical data. At the same time, you are strengthening your relationship with customer by giving them a more active voice and influence. Behind these gains lie increased buying accuracy and greater success in introducing new products. For the first time, there is a proactive and accurate tool that allows you to look out the front windshield instead of the rear-view mirror when making key decisions related to buying, inventory management, manufacturing and marketing.
In going back to the original questions proposed, yes, we know customers want to shape and influence the products they buy, but how can this be done? First Insight’s unique solution provides consumers with both value and entertainment. We engage consumers with interactive online games to play and share. These games are distributed into various communities across the Internet – both internal to your company and across the Internet. We can even use social media sites to connect with people who may already be talking about your company. But, games, do my customers really want or even have the time to play games?
According to the Casual Gaming Association more than 200 million consumers play online casual games each month. And unlike traditional video games, casual online game players are typically older and predominantly female. Nearly 60% of games played are by women with the majority between the ages of 25-54 years old. Women are attracted to the ease of use, puzzle-like nature and ability to connect with like-minded people. Knowing the mindset of our players has allowed First Insight to create engaging games that consumers find fun, entertaining and worthwhile to play, consumer just like Katherine:
“What Would They Pay,” is one of First Insight’s original casual games. The game is designed to resemble a virtual buying floor where participants are shown various products. Their goal is to act like a shopper at a particular store, assigning pricing and ratings accordingly. In the end, the customer is rewarded not only with a score, but also with the pride in helping to influence potential merchandising decisions. The games yield data, which our predictive analytics use to give you a competitive advantage. You will have the power to know what your customers value and want before competitors.
A few weeks ago, RetailWire published a Braintrust Query, “Do you hear what I hear? – Listening to Best Customers.” The article made a good point about the need to make it easier for your best customers to share feedback with you. The article gave three ways for companies to make it easier for these best customers to share: Start a Facebook page, call the best customers every week, and ask for feedback after every e-commerce transaction.
It’s good to see that companies are beginning to understand just how important customers are, but aside from starting a Facebook page, these methods are still far from “best practices.” Soliciting feedback from either a phone or email survey is an interruption. Yes, consumers want to be heard and they love to share, but it’s important to realize that they want to share on their own time, and in their own way. They don’t want marketers calling them during dinner anymore. Plus, consumers want to be entertained. It’s important to make your methods of listening engaging and fun. Sharing has to be beneficial to both the retailer and the consumer. Asking for feedback in an intrusive way makes consumers feel used, not appreciated, and could quickly turn best customers into worst.
There is also an often overlooked issue with Facebook pages, too. According to Inside Facebook, a site that tracks growth and leaders on Facebook, in August 2009 the average retailer had over 2,100 fans. If all of these fans are sharing with your company – through comments, messages, and discussion boards – how do you aggregate and act upon what they are sharing? If you aren’t able to do this effectively, you’re hearing, not listening. Actively listening requires retailers to be able to separate the noise from the meaningful feedback, and then to turn this feedback into action. And action requires more than sending a short note thanking or apologizing to the customer with a coupon attached.