Following is a guest post by John Mattingly, Industry Solutions Director at Pluck.
Lots of people think social commerce means product reviews on your website. This is understandable, given the popularity of reviews and their demonstrated influence on consumer purchase decisions.
But in reality your social commerce experience can – and should – have broader reach. In fact, we’re strong proponents of injecting interaction and conversation into every part of the customer journey. That’s smarter commerce, and it’s built upon social elements like forums, blogs, photo and video galleries, groups, profiles, comments, recommendations, content discovery, gamification, social sharing, messaging and, yes, product reviews.
Why go to the effort of creating such an integrated, immersive social commerce experience? Because in addition to influencing conversion, full lifecycle social commerce will enhance your efforts and results in audience acquisition, engagement, retention and referral.
Our experience with hundreds of retailers and brands has taught us the value of applying social commerce to every step of your customer lifecycle. Immersive social commerce:
Helps you to acquire new audiences with authoritative and credible content around product and lifestyle topics.
Blogs are a well-established platform for long-form content, and you should use blogs to host product and lifestyle articles authored by your staff and expert customers. These articles have great SEO value, are informative, and are useful to shoppers who are trying to find a merchant or brand to trust with their business.
Establishes an emotional connection with these newcomers.
The passions that fuel your brand will sustain interaction and conversation among consumers who share those passions. Far beyond gimmicks and games, this experience will engage your natural audience, connect its members emotionally to your brand, and encourage them to linger on your site and come back often for the product and lifestyle discussions there. Photo and video galleries and discussion platforms like blogs and forums help you to own the conversation on your site.
Provides beginning shoppers with educational product and product feature information.
Long before they settle on a particular product or product model, early-stage shoppers want to understand what product features they should care about or how a category of product is used. Forums and blogs that provide customer- and staff-supplied product category information are useful to these shoppers.
Makes you the source of authoritative answers to shoppers’ specific product feature questions.
As they narrow their product choices shoppers often have questions about particular product features. Q&A applications capture and resolve these questions, with answers from staff or customers.
Accelerates shoppers’ decision-making by surfacing popular products, content and contributors.
You can help shoppers navigate what could be a crowded and cluttered product space by displaying your customers’ consensus most popular and highest rated products. Use content discovery mechanisms throughout your shopping experience to expose your “best of”, and make it easier for shoppers to decide.
Makes shoppers confident of their choices with customer-driven product and product feature feedback.
Integrate reviews into your product detail pages where shoppers can see customer feedback, and reap the well-understood benefits of product reviews. Make it easy for shoppers to narrow the reviews they see to those submitted by friends, like-minded people, or expert reviewers, and conversion will happen even faster.
Engages knowledgeable and enthusiastic customers in your support processes.
Involving loyal customers in post-sales interactions can save contact center costs and influence the customer satisfaction on both ends of the conversation. Support forums are an ideal vehicle for involving customers in your first-line product support.
Makes it easy for your enthusiasts to share your social commerce experience with their followers across the social web.
As today’s shoppers navigate their consumer journey, they enjoy sharing their experience with their broader circle of friends and followers. These referrals introduce new people to your products and brand, and, coming as they do from trusted sources, they are likely to start new customer journeys on your site. Make sure you make it easy for your loyalists to express their enthusiasm for your experience.
Rewards interaction and involvement and other valuable behaviors.
Gamification can motivate consumers to interact in ways that support your business objectives, and can acknowledge valuable behaviors with points, badges and leader boards that you can tie out to virtual or real rewards.
Pluck is a longtime IBM partner and is used by more than 650 retailers and brands – including numerous IBM Smarter Commerce clients – such as Target, Ford, UNIQLO, SHOP.CA, Redbox, Nestlé and Mattel. These market leaders integrate Pluck into their brand site pages and smartphone and tablet apps to grow and engage their audience, drive conversion and inspire customer delight.
To learn more about immersive social commerce and Pluck, please visit us at www.pluck.com/ibm.