Social Commerce Psych: The Whys & Hows of Consumer Behavior #SESNY

Welcome back to AIMCLEAR‘s coverage of #SESNY 2012! In SEO and SEM, there’s often talk of how important it is to “think like your customer,” particularly when picking the right keywords for which to optimize your site and bid on with PPC campaigns. The same holds true for social media online commerce social commerce. You really have to get inside your potential customers’ brains if you want to market effectively and stay in business. Understanding your site layout from a user-perspective, the significance of product reviews, the power and impact of social endorsements, the appeal of flash discounts and exclusive coupon codes— and how all of these factors resonate with your network of existing and potential customers– is straight-up essential for sCommerce success.

The afternoon of Day 1 at Search Engine Strategies New York brought together a hip and knowledgable panel to share surprising statistics, enlightening tips, and actionable tactics for better understanding your customers, what they want, and how to give it to them. Moderator Jennifer Evans Cario, President at SugarSpun Marketing, guided speakers Dana Todd, Vice President of Performance Innovation at Performics, Chad Childress, Senior Consultant at Crown Partners, and Michael Mothner, Founder & CEO at Wpromote Inc. through this social-savvy session. AIMCLEAR live-tweeted via @beebow. Read on for the pearls and gems.

Dana Todd was up first. (Author’s note [too early for these?]: Girl has some seriously cool hair. It’s violet! I tried to snap a picture but all came out super underexposed. Woe.)

sCommerce: What the heck is it? Is it a typo?
No, no. Though “S” and “E” are remarkably close neighbors on the keyboard, sCommerce is it’s own beast. It means “social commerce,” and describes pretty much any site that has a shopping API set up via Facebook or a similar social channel.

Got that? Social.

“It’s time to rethink the shopping experience!” Dana proclaimed. “Regardless of the medium, people crave participation with your brand and each other.” People like to interact with things, especially in terms of commerce. How do they interact? By sharing media-rich content that fosters engagement… posting photos, sharing reviews, even uploading little homemade videos. If people naturally crave visually stimulating and interactive experiences when making purchases, why are many eCommerce product pages and shopping carts so freakin’ ugly?

North American Technologies Media conducted a study on consumer expectations for interactive relationships. Dana shared some surprising stats from that study:

Prior to Going To Your Store:

  • 37% of people want online videos integrated with eCommerce XP
  • 36% check to see your social profiles before making a purchase

While In Your Store:

  • 45% of shoppers check-in at a store (majority happens on Facebook, not 4sq)
  • 41% use search engines on mobile phones to look for product information
  • 30% take photos and post them to get feedback of what they should buy
  • 62% do competitive price search
  • 60% find specials, coupons & deals
  • 52% search reviews
  • 45% search other locations of your store for product availability

While On Your Site:

  • 46% will eliminate possibility of purchase based on negative review
  • 60% wait up to 10 minutes for advice before proceeding with a purchase (or abandoning cart)

HELLO! Those statistics scream – and how about that last one? If your brand’s community manager has her face glued to Twitter (which she should) and sees a tweet go by from Shopper Sally the likes of, “thinking about buying this cool @brand sweater…[link]” statistics show CM X has up to 10 minutes to reach out to Sally with a tweet like, “i LOVE that sweater. i have it in yellow :)” or something similar… i.e. sway Sally to make the purchase! That’s rockstar.

Best Practices

  • Don’t block mobile signals. (Srsly? This is one of those best practices that exists because someone was silly enough to do the opposite.)
  • Implement interactive elements (comments, sharing, reviews) on product pages. Make them indexable!
  • Leverage online reviews in-store, as well.
  • Verify what happens when people try to share, pin, like, etc. any product or link on your site. Make sure nothing’s broken.
  • Encourage check-ins in your store
  • Facilitate in-store barcode scanning (2D & 3D)
  • Participate on social networks, search, and shopping engines to foster positive chatter and quickly respond to negative chatter
  • Check out emerging opportunities on hot social channels like Pinterest, Purchlive, RNKD, and Polyvore

Dana turned the mic over to Chad Childress who was set to discuss “sCommerce: The Really Really.”

“Social is not Facebook and Twitter,” Chad began. (Really? Really.) Facebook and Twitter are just facilitators and amplifiers for natural interactions, i.e.: socialization. Social has been around since the beginning of time. These platforms are just facilitators for sharing.

“Experience” Isn’t Just At Trial
In the old days, a customer didn’t really have the chance to experience a product or service until after purchase was made. That is so far from true anymore. Social sharing happens at every step, not just after checkout. People tweet when they are frustrated navigating your online shopping cart. They tell their friends that they love the discount they got at your brick and mortar location because they checked in on Facebook. Sharing happens as early as initial stimulus through trial and beyond!

Chad recommends your company design social programs to facilitate sharing and active participation at every step. The customer experience continuum looks like this:

Stimulus > Digital Research > On or Offline Shelf > Trial > Advocacy >Loyalty, Indifference, or Negativity

sCommerce: The Answer
“How can I make my brand stickier? How can I convert customers from curiosity to loyalty and advocacy?” Chad hears questions like this all the time. As he put it:

“Your brand equity is made up of the collective logical and emotional opinions formed through the experiences customers have with you. Therefore, your brand cannot be controlled or created through messaging, but only through the experience. Your message represents the benchmarks by which people judge your authenticity and relevance against, but it is not what your brand IS.”

Cuddling Up With Your Customers (Figuratively)
Chad encourages companies to empower customers to not only share their experience, but also to be the crafters of your message. (How authentic!) “Embrace reality and use it as a medium to enable your customers to fix your problems. All you have to do is listen!”

At the end of the day, your customers are your business. They are your company. Ain’t that the truth? Marketing today is the sum of the 4 p’s (product, price, place, promotion), plus the collective experiences and emotional and local opinions that are formed by your customers. Look at daily discount sites like “Groupon gets it – it’s all about the customers,” Chad notes. If you want to create something worth sharing, it has to be a customer-centric concept.

experience for customers and B2B creates excitement, empowerment, creates something worth sharing.

sCommerce: Making It Happen
A good experience doesn’t necessarily mean “premium” – it mostly means “precise.” It’s about uncovering exactly what your customer needs and wants, and then finding a way to not only meet those needs, but deliver on those needs in a way that is better than what they’re expecting.

Design experiences that let them engage in a way that works best for them. That’s not always easy to do in the real world of business… we all have business objectives and things WE need to do. But when we design experiences that are the best for our customers, that’s going to come back and benefit us 10-fold. Just meeting expectations isn’t enough to get people excited and to get people on board with your brand.

Wake-Up Call: Netscore conducted a study that concluded if customers don’t rate you a 9 or a 10 (on a scale of 1-10, they’re either indifferent or negative towards your brand. NEGATIVE. “Can you honestly say that all of your clients would rate you as a 9 or a 10?” If they’re not, they’re bitter.

It’s all about the consumer experience. Here are your roadmap to enhance that experience:

  • Research
  • Thoughtfully innovate
  • Solve problems
  • Surprise and delight

Chad notes that every decision your business makes should be made through the lens of how can you improve on the customer experience in a meaningful way. Don’t just go home and create for the sake of creating – understand what your customers need and need – then, act.

ISO Hard Working CXO
CXO? Is this another typo? Nope. It’s the c-suite position Chad believes is absolutely essential nowadays – every company should have one. It’s the Chief Experience Operator, charged with making sure every single customer has as enriching an experience as possible. If your brand doesn’t have one, get one.

Last but not least, Mike Mothner saddled up to talk about how social ties into search and other online experiences.

Social Networks vs. Social Layers
Mike began by discussing the difference between networks and layers in a social context. A social network is a self-contained environments, like LinkedIn or Facebook– isolated networks separate from the rest of the web.

Social layers cover the whole Internet – a social layer is the Google +1 button, the Facebook Like button. They’re not confined to a single community or platform.

Analogy Time: Facebook is to Network as Like button is to Layer. Ya dig?

“The social layer is about adding social elements to online experiences,” Mike noted. And yes, that includes Google+. Whether or not you think Google+ will be a popular platform, it doesn’t matter. It’s the +1 button that is powerful.

The Power of the Social Endorsement
Where do social endorsements show up? Blog posts, product pages, you name it. People don’t always understand what they’re doing when they click a Like or +1 button. But they do it anyway. Why? People like to push buttons. Put a social button on a page, people are inclined to click it. That’s just how it is.

But what do these clicks mean for your company? The more clicks you get, the wider the social ecosystem you’re creating on your own pages. These clicks also show up in SERPs. That means they affect SEO and PPC, right?

Yes. Sort of. There’s not a direct effect… but there is an indirect effect that basically triggers a direct chain of events. Catch that? 🙂

How Social Endorsements Affect SEO & PPC
This example demonstrates how a social endorsement, in this case, seeing a friend’s Facebook avatar next to a link in a SERP, can impact click-through rate, which in turn can positively affect SEO & PPC.

  1. Jenny “Likes” A Raskullz Kitty Helmet @mothner
  2. When Jenny’s friend, John, searches for the Raskullz Kitty Helmet, Jenny’s Like and social endorsement shows up .
  3. John is far more likely to click the link with Jenny’s social endorsement @mothner
  4. Higher CTR will improve SEO rankings and lower PPC costs 🙂 @mothner

Using Google+ to Dominate SERPs
Google is REALLY heavily integrating search and social, to the point where Mike thinks the SERPs suck a bit. He recently did a search, while logged into Google, for the query “Vegas.”

  • Important side-note: Mike follows Robert Scoble on Google+
  • Additional important side-note: Robert Scoble uses Google+ a TON

As a result of these two side-notes, Scoble’s content absolutely dominated Mike’s SERPs for “Vegas.” From photos to tweets to blog post links, he saturated the blended search results– simply because he is connected to Mike on Google+. Scoble himself has little to do with Vegas, not in the sense that Mike needed. Now… think about if Scoble was a brand… a brand that wooed Mike into connecting with it on Google+ by way of some fabulous customer experience. That brand could dominate SERPs for any search terms it optimized rich content for. Jackpot!

Lesson learned: Get on Google+… and dominate the social space for your search terms.

Reviews, & Why They Rock
People freak out about reviews. Reviews are scary and powerful. Reviews sell products. Interestingly, bad reviews also sell products. Maybe not the poorly reviewed product, but overall– bad reviews don’t immediately translate to brand abandoners. Fun Fact: What doesn’t help sell anything are reviews with poor grammar. Poor grammer lowers source credibility in the eyes of consumers.

I noes, rite? Ppl make shopping decishunz 4 what seem lyke crazie reason!!1

(If you think reading that hurt your brain, imagine how it felt to type it.)

Mike’s Pro Tips for Reviews

  • Have a coherent review strategy. Know how you’re going to cultivate reviews.
  • Systematize reviews. Happy customers don’t bother to send reviews, so you have to ask them. Odds are, they will!
  • Know what you’re doing to do when a bad review crops up. Mike recommends the following:
    • If a review is inaccurate or slanderous, look to remove.
    • If it’s genuine feedback from an unhappy customer, reach out publicly but don’t be too specific. Work to resolve offline. In most cases, same commenter will come back with a follow up review of some kind. This is good!

And that about does it for this installment of Social Commerce Psychology! Are you feeling more in touch with your customer’s brain-matter? Good. Now go out and get to work! But don’t forget to stick around for more coverage of #SESNY 2012 right here on AIMCLEAR blog 🙂 .

photo credit: clarkwoods

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