Monthly Archives: June 2012

How Pinterest is flipping the merchandising model for mobile retailers

Pinterest is one of the major social media sites responsible for driving significant sales for online retailers and more brands need to take notice and merchandise their mobile sites and applications to drive stronger traffic and ROI.

According to some mobile experts, social media needs to be viewed as a comprehensive part of a retailers’ mobile strategy. “When social is implemented as part of a comprehensive mobile strategy, it can become a powerful mechanism for marketers to amplify their merchandising initiatives,” said Carin Van Vuuren, chief marketing officer of Usablenet, New York.

“By leveraging a customer’s ability to easily share products, reviews, promotions and other content over social channels, businesses can engage with a much larger audience and maximize their reach. In essence, social media creates a multiplier effect to enhance a brand’s message over the mobile channel,” she said.

Social driver
Traditionally, retailers have merchandised mobile sites and apps based on what products are newest or most in season. However, a recent study from comScore found that Pinterest is leading the pack as the fastest-growing social media site with a year-over-year growth of more than 4377 percent, showing how consumers are sometimes more in control of purchasing power than many brands.

The same study predicts that users who accessed the Web via mobile will surpass desktop users by 2014. With Pinterest’s emphasis on users sharing content via the mobile Web, the study points to the opportunities that retailers have to equip their mobile services with social media.

Mobile retailers also need to think about how their content will be shared, whether it is through links or social sharing buttons. Although Pinterest undoubtedly plays a big role for retailers, other social media sites are also important for retailers and brands, based on a company’s goals.

“At a high level, social media appeals to businesses that want to increase their brand awareness. However, which platform a business chooses to promote depends on what they believe will have the greatest reach based on their audience,” Ms. Van Vuuren said.

“And as social sharing continues to increase in popularity, we are experiencing a notable shift on the mobile channel. Instead of driving traffic that originates on their social platforms to mobile, brands are now viewing mobile as a starting point in the customer journey and are integrating social as part of the holistic user experience,” she said.

Build on data
Incorporating social media goes beyond a basic “Like” with data at the core, say some. Consumers are now major forces of deciding what others buy by sharing content across multiple devices. Social media also needs to be viewed as part of a broader, multichannel marketing strategy, according to Craig Davis, CEO/founder of Relevvant, San Francisco.

“A range of factors, data and channels are now instrumental in the purchasing channel. We are looking to our friends, family and even complete strangers to recommend, guide and influence every product purchase we make,” Mr. Davis said.

“Further, with easier access to brand content on our mobile phones, consumers are constantly looking at product reviews, social recommendations, videos, images and user generated content – merchandising has become more personal than ever before,” he said.

Taking a broader picture look at how consumers interact with a brand could lead to more personalized shopping experiences. For example, if a retailer had access to a consumer’s social media graph, then the home page of a mobile site or app could be personalized to show only products that a consumer has indicated that they are interested in.

Not only would consumers want to shop from a retailer with a more personalized experience, basket sizes would also likely increase as consumers find new products.

Time is always top-of-mind for mobile marketers, but social media adds an additional real-time element to consumers looking for information, recommendations and products while on their devices.

“Mobile shoppers want to be able to find what they are looking for, share it with their friends and purchase it quickly and easily – often in 60 seconds or less,” said Dan Lowden, vice president of marketing at Digby, Austin, TX.

“Enabling social sharing on product pages allows retailers to see which products are most popular on mobile and then merchandise accordingly. Social media creates a two-way conversation between the consumer and the brand. Paying attention to social media channels lets retailers see which products are shared most often and receive the highest response. Retailers can also see what their most loyal – and disloyal – shoppers are saying about their brand and see where they are successful and where they need to improve,” he said.

Social commerce
Peter DiBart, regional vice president for Metia, New York, believes that social media needs to have a commerce-first approach.

Additionally, any content that a brand distributes can be seen as potentially leading to commerce, showing how social media has the ability to drive more than just online traffic.

“Every social experience can be transactional. Every transaction can be a social experience,” Mr. DiBart said.

“There’s an increasing number of people who are engaging with social media on their mobile devices, and the percentage of people being referred to mobile retail sites from social networks is on the rise. Your site must be mobile-friendly if you want to capture a socialized audience. The objective of a retailer should be to make it easy to discover and share product information – social and mobile are equally important,” he said.

“By consuming brand content, your audience is contributing to the merchandising of your product. Marketers are no longer promoting a brand’s salable attributes – they are creating full content and experience ecosystems around brands for audiences to consume.”

Read the full article: How Pinterest is flipping the merchandising model for mobile retailers »

5 Ways Small Businesses Get Social Media Wrong

It’s hard to go anywhere these days and not be bombarded with social media. That’s because Facebook has 900 million active users, there are more than 200 million Twitter users, and then there’s Pinterest, the latest darling.

Given this reality, it’s impossible for small business owners not to feel a sense of urgency to master the social media landscape. But in the rush to join the social media party some small businesses are making critical mistakes. Here are five common errors that small businesses make when it comes to social media and how to avoid them.

1. Social Isn’t the Place for the Hard Sell – This might be the most difficult lesson for the small business owner. After all, we don’t have large marketing budgets to waste. Every dollar must count and we’ve been trained to close every potential sale. However, the social universe requires a subtler approach. This means no BUY ME buttons or blatant promotional copy.

In fact, if your social media strategy is just about marketing or sales, then you’re not approaching it right. Yes, you can use social media for marketing and you can increase your sales figures from it, but it can’t be your focus 100% of the time. As a general rule of thumb, only 5% to 10% of your social media activity (i.e. status updates or tweets) should be self-promotional.

Social media is all about building relationships and growing trust. This means answering questions, providing helpful information, and serving as a trusted resource. These activities should grow your bottom line, but it can be a slower, more nuanced, and potentially more fruitful journey than you’be come to expect. For this reason, it’s important to realize that social media shouldn’t replace all your other traditional marketing practices. It’s okay to ask for the sale, just not in social channels.

2. Social Isn’t About Self-Promotion – You know how painful it is to be stuck at a cocktail party, talking to that self-absorbed person who only talks about him or herself. Small businesses need to treat social media like a cocktail party among friends. To be liked, you’ve got to be gracious, genuinely interested in others, and not dominate the conversation.

What does this mean? Make it easy for people to leave comments on your blog. Engage with everyone who posts on your wall (within reason). Share great content from others in the industry. Ask questions and encourage participation. And most importantly, recognize that sometimes it’s better to talk less and listen more.

3. You Don’t Have to be Everywhere – There are two facts to keep in mind when it comes to social media and small business. First, there will always be a new network to get involved with. Secondly, a small business owner has a limited amount of time and money to devote to social media.

Fortunately, doing social media well doesn’t mean you need to be anywhere and everywhere. Instead, it’s about choosing one or two of the most relevant and effective channels for reaching your customers and focusing on them.

Remember that a neglected social media presence will reflect poorly on your business. It’s actually better to not have an account if you don’t have the time and resources to actively manage it and participate.

4. You Don’t Have to Keep up With the Big Brands – If you’re running a small business, you know there’s a big difference between your budget and that of Virgin America or Starbucks. That’s OK. Your small business doesn’t need to try to keep up with these big brands — particularly when it comes to contests and campaigns.

Creating giveaways and contests is one of the most effective ways to generate new likes and improve overall engagement. But small businesses often feel the pressure to offer flashy prizes that are well beyond their budget.

For example, for your small business, don’t give away a bunch of iPads if that’s not what you can afford. Instead, consider giving away one of your company’s services. It’s definitely not the sexiest prize and won’t generate widespread interest, but it’s more budget friendly and everyone who participates is sure to be interested in what your company does.

5. Social Media isn’t “Free” – Sure, you don’t have to spend a dime to join Facebook, create a Twitter account, or start a blog. That’s great news for the small business. However, social media is far from free once you factor in the blood, sweat, and tears it demands. Social media requires constant commitment, from keeping fresh content on your accounts to engaging your community.

Unless you consider your time (or the time of your employees) worthless, then there’s a significant cost involved with social media. For example, if it takes one employee approximately ten hours a week to manage social media accounts, you can assign a hard cost to the effort. The key takeaway is any small business owner needs to understand the numbers behind every campaign, and that means factoring in everyone’s time and effort.

Read the full article ‘5 Ways Small Businesses Get Social Media Wrong’ »

Teens turn from Facebook to fresher social-media sites

Facebook appears to have competition for teens’ attention, and they’re drifting to other social-media sites as evidence mounts that the growth of the world’s largest social network is slowing.

Drawn to niche sites such as Foursquare and Tumblr, teens appear to be expanding beyond Facebook. According to market research firm YPulse, 18% of teens prefer to “check in” on Foursquare instead of Facebook, and 10% say Pinterest is a better site for browsing.

“We’re supportive of these websites growing, and the websites integrated with Facebook are more social because of it, ” said Malorie Lucich, communications manager for Facebook.

Facing mounting investor scrutiny after its disappointing IPO, Facebook is under pressure to report increased growth and revenue to Wall Street.

But Facebook, which claims more than 900 million members, had 158 million unique visitors to its site in April, according to researcher ComScore, up just 5% from a year ago. That compares with year-over-year growth rates of 89% in April 2010.

More than eight years after Facebook’s inception, its mass appeal has drawn older crowds who add their kids as Facebook friends. That development could be tarnishing the site’s “cool factor” in the eyes of teens, said Jake Katz, chief architect at YPulse.

There are other reasons teens are divvying up their digital presence. It assures them more privacy, as well as new popularity among a smaller audience. Instagram, for example, features users’ photos on its “Popular” page. “There’s a new flavor of gratification,” that Facebook doesn’t have, Katz said.

To meet rising mobile interests, where many teens surf the Internet and chat, the social giant has made strides to make its mobile app a crucial part of Facebook.

Facebook has sliced site functions into separate mobile apps such as Facebook Messenger and Facebook Pictures, a move that could appeal to teens, as online identities spread across multiple sites, Katz said.

Also, the social network is testing ways to allow those under 13, currently prohibited, to participate with parental supervision.

Read full article: Teens turn from Facebook to fresher social-media sites »

Facebook Mobile Ads Earn 2.5 Times More Than Desktop Ads, Studies Find

Facebook‘s mobile ads are performing significantly better than its desktop ads, according to multiple studies released Tuesday. That’s great news for the social network and its investors, who have worried about the company’s revenue prospects as its 900 million-strong user base shifts more of its time to mobile devices.

At the beginning of the month, Facebook began allowing advertisers to purchase Sponsored Stories solely on mobile devices for the first time. Sponsored Stories are posts companies and individuals have paid to highlight in the News Feeds of its fans and their friends (see right screenshot).

Early data from SocialCode, a Facebook Ads API partner, shows that ads that appear in mobile News Feeds get more clicks and more Likes than ads that appear in desktop News Feeds, proportionally. (It’s worth noting, however, that other kinds of ads, including display and search, also have higher click-through rates on mobile compared desktop. Because of the smaller screen sizes on mobile devices, accidental clicks are also more common.)

The findings were culled from 7 million impressions served between June 8 and June 18, of which 242,000 were shown on mobile devices.

Mobile click-through rate averaged 0.79% in the study, compared to 0.327% for desktop feed ads. A separate study by TBG Digital recorded an even higher click-through rate for mobile at 1.14%.

Because of the relatively high click-through rates, Facebook was able to generate 2.5 times as much revenue from mobile ads than desktop feed ads for the same number of impressions. Mobile feed ads generated roughly $7.51 per thousand impressions, while desktop feed ads came in at $2.98. Marketers, who purchased the ads on a cost-per-click basis in the study, paid only slightly more for mobile ads, as shown in the chart below.

There is one other promising finding: The number of Likes each 1,000 mobile impressions generated was also higher on mobile, averaging 0.62% compared to 0.219% on desktop feeds.

Read the full article: Facebook Mobile Ads Earn 2.5 Times More Than Desktop Ads, Studies Find »

Why the Interest Graph Is a Marketer’s Best Friend

Since the dawn of companies like Twitter, one question has baffled marketers: How do we demonstrate ROI in our social media strategy? For example, we know that Facebook “likes” don’t equal sales. So what’s the alternative?

Enter the interest graph, which offers a new way to develop connections based on what people like, not who they know. The interest graph also gives marketers the chance to demonstrably generate revenue. Here’s how other companies are experimenting in this space and the results.

Enable Opportunities for Social Discovery – People make connections on Facebook for all sorts of reasons, but rarely do they make friends with total strangers based on a shared interest in products and services. The company Step2 is changing that and enhancing the shopping experience by promoting social discovery through their Facebook page. For starters, they allow users to follow individual products and product categories, and get updates directly in their newsfeed. Even better, their “follow a reviewer” feature enables individuals to subscribe to product reviews from someone with similar tastes and preferences.

There’s a social component, and everything is opt in, but it’s also a marketing opportunity that has the potential to directly increase revenue. Step2 uses the interest graph to recommend users to follow, but beyond that, users are connecting in a genuine way based on real interests.
Personalize the On-site Experience
Ever since Facebook released its Open Graph, brands and retailers have had a unique opportunity to learn about the interests of their customers and use this information to serve them compelling, personalized experiences. is one of the best examples of companies currently using the Open Graph. When a customer logs onto Facebook Connect from within, their profile data is pulled so that Amazon can suggest products they might be interested in.

Compare this with the old way of doing things when Amazon made product suggestions based on what you’d already purchased. But what if a user purchased a book about golf for his brother and perfume for his wife? Recommendations based on this information wouldn’t be very engaging. That all changes with the interest graph. Amazon can make sure that the first thing users see are options deeply connected to their personal preferences. It’s a great way to keep users on the site, increase the likelihood of purchase, and generate more revenue — short and long term.

Create Interest-based Communities on Pinterest – Pinterest has quickly become an Internet darling, and it’s particularly valuable for marketers. Pinterest users “like” and pin the things they love. Sometimes that means inspiring images, but more often than not, they pin items they want to buy. There are two key ways that retailers can leverage this as a marketing tool.

For starters, companies should be present on Pinterest and create boards that include pins of their own products and items their customers might be interested in. For example, does a great job of cultivating a strong presence in the Pinterest community. Not only do they post their own content, they develop relationships by liking pins on other users’ boards. Those relationships drive traffic to their own page, increasing awareness about their products and brand.

Modcloth uses Pinterest’s multiple-contributor feature to invite customers to pin their own photos to Modcloth’s pinboards. Paying attention to what other kinds of things inspire your customers can help shape future product development. It also creates a community hub around your brand. So when you want to push new products, you have a captive audience.

Additionally, you can add the “Pin It” button next to products on your website, so that you can track which products your customers are interested in and tailor your marketing messages accordingly. Pinterest offers huge opportunities to customize special offers, online ads, email campaigns and even on-site merchandising according to the interests expressed by users.

Use the Interest Graph to Jump-start Your Online Ad Strategy – There’s no better indication that a user is interested in a product than learning that he or she’s placed it the shopping cart. But what do you with that information? Targeting online ads based on a user’s browsing behavior is a great way to sustain and fuel interest in a product and market related products that individuals are likely to find compelling. When ads are fueled by true, indicated interest, they’re much more likely to resonate and ultimately lead to a sale.

Twitter also provides an ideal environment to serve personalized ads based on what people follow, click on, and tweet about. For example, Virgin America used Twitter’s Promoted Tweets to announce their expansion into Canada, and offered a 50% discount for the first 500 travelers. Due to the highly-targeted distribution of the ad based on users’ declared interest in the airline, the offer sold out in three hours and Virgin experienced its fifth-highest day of sales on record.

Ultimately, when marketers use the interest graph to craft campaigns, it’s a win for both the brand and the consumer. Marketers want to drive revenue, and consumers want to see products that interest them. The personalized web is the way of the future, and the marketers who recognize it will be the ones who lead the future of ecommerce.

Read the full article: Why the Interest Graph Is a Marketer’s Best Friend »

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