Connected Commerce: Filling in the Grid
September 22, 2011 Leave a Comment
Customers’ expectations are higher than ever for an integrated brand experience. Shoppers expect to be able to research and buy products, interact with and communicate about brands wherever they roam – from their smartphones to social networking sites and beyond.
For merchants, that expectation means integrated features and services that were once “nice to have” are now mandatory. But we’ve found that while many merchants are experimenting with new platforms and formats, efforts remain highly segmented. This tendency is understandable – after all, on the surface, different mediums seem to serve different strengths. Industry researcher Forrester found that 61% of merchants view “listening to and better understanding customers” – not sales – as the primary ROI of social marketing, for example. Similarly, we merchants tend to think of search as an acquisition channel and email as a retention tool, while our flagship eCommerce sites remain the primary driver of online conversion.
The problem with this approach, of course, is that shoppers don’t consult the graphic and segment their behaviors accordingly! Increasingly, they expect to fulfill diverse needs through whichever device or channel they prefer – whether it’s purchasing directly on Facebook or receiving loyalty offers on their cell phones. To meet this rising demand for total integration, we encourage merchants to move toward a more holistic approach, where each potential connection point with shoppers supports no less than five core needs:
1. Researching a product. Of course merchants should provide robust product information and customer reviews – but are they available via mobile devices and Facebook as well as the eCommerce site? Innovative merchants are translating long-successful practices from their eCommerce sites into new formats – for example, creating persona-driven mobile tools, such as Target’s “All About Baby”, that engage shoppers and connect them with the products they need.
2. Buying a product. Wherever merchants establish a presence, their products should be front and center – and targeted at the medium’s audience. On Facebook, for example, merchants should feature customer-driven selections such as top-rated or top-“liked” items and/or the latest seasonal products. In springtime, Title Nine focused its featured Facebook products on the upcoming swim season – delivering the latest looks to its brand followers.
Once shoppers spot a product they like, buying should be easy – without leaving their current environment. Merchants should consider implementing on-Facebook purchasing, transaction-enabled email, and a streamlined checkout process for mobile users.
3. Reaching customer service. Here’s a seeming no-brainer: a merchant’s customer service information should be ubiquitous on whatever platform shoppers use. But while most merchants have now made customer service links easily accessible on their eCommerce sites, in a recent survey we found that less than 10% of the 40 largest U.S. merchants’ Facebook pages include a customer service phone number – and only one showcased its online chat feature via Facebook. It’s an easy change to make: incorporate customer service information prominently, as Crate & Barrel does on its Facebook page by integrating the customer service number prominently into the anchor graphic on its page.
4. Supporting customers’ lifestyle. Successful merchants connect with their core audience by delivering not just products, but shopping environments in tune with shoppers’ tastes. Showcasing complementary content and in-depth expertise builds brand credibility – making it crucial to translate across platforms and media. Fashion-forward merchant Armani Exchange not only showcases its music channel, videos and promotional events on its flagship eCommerce site, but also via mobile and Facebook outlets – engaging shoppers wherever they connect with the brand.
5. Giving social feedback. As touchpoints proliferate, so do the opportunities for merchants to solicit shoppers’ opinions – thereby gaining valuable insights and shaping future marketing and merchandising strategies to suit shoppers’ needs. Savvy merchants are “crowd-sourcing” which products to feature as sale items and inviting customers’ ideas for products or services – as Perricone MD does below, with its Facebook poll asking followers to select which item will be included as a free sample with orders.
By supporting each of these behaviors on multiple platforms, merchants can achieve truly connected commerce. How many squares on the grid can you fill in? What are the challenges to filling in the gaps? Where are you seeing integration success?