As a retailer, is there any part of you that feels all this talk of “social” is overblown? A passing fad? Something you don’t need to worry about? No? Good. You're part of the revolution. Read on.
The fact that social is such a juggernaut and is starting to make serious inroads into B2C commerce shouldn’t come as a surprise. It addresses our basic human need to commune with like minds, share ideas and opinions, kvetch and commiserate, in short, socialize. Bringing it to commerce is a natural fit because unlike groups of friends who may or may not have unified interests, commerce channels invite true communities to form; groups of people with a common interest or shared goal; to purchase something. So how do you truly embrace and leverage social online and across your channels? Start by designing for the social experience.
If you have a Facebook page with lots of fans, or a Twitter feed with lots of followers, that’s fantastic, but why push all that traffic and allow all those very valuable customer interactions to occur on a site that isn't yours? It’s time to take the next step by integrating social into your brand's commerce channels by practicing what I’ve been calling Integrated Social Commerce.
Integrated social commerce is simply an idea that plays off Social Design concepts in that when you think about how to use social to your brand's advantage, instead of shoe-horning in a social component to what you are doing, start with the question "How will customers interact with this?" "How do we, as a brand, want to interact with our customers?" "How will this enable customer-to-customer conversation?" In short, make the social experience the centerpiece of whatever experience/platform/channel/feature you are designing.
Several brands are ahead of the curve when it comes to integrated social commerce. I've highlighted a few examples below to demonstrate how starting with social can help your brand garner invaluable insights and customer intelligence across channels, as well as provide a more meaningful, engaging experience to your customers.
TripAdvisor uses a "log in with Facebook" method to display Friends' activities on any given city, hotel, or restaurant detail page. Am I more likely to book a hotel room in New York if I see my friend Sam rated the hotel highly? You betcha. In addition, once I realize TripAdvisor lets me see ALL the places my friends have been and reviewed, why would I go to any travel site that doesn't offer me that same insight? The nice thing about the TripAdvisor implementation is that it is both authentic to the brand voice (in that it's absent) and encourages the customer-to-customer conversation to drive engagement and loyalty.
Giant Nerd also uses a "log in with Facebook" approach to capture and display friends' social graph information on the site, but they take social further but creating their own 'social language' for tagging products and sharing those tags. They allow customers to "love," "dislike," "want," or "own" any given item, and share that tag with friends on the site and across social networks. They also play off our human drive for competition by rewarding site contributors with points and status levels the more they give feedback and interact with the social components of the site. (Alas, I'm only a Nanonerd at this point.)
But what about other channels for your brand? How can you put the social experience in the center of Customer Service? Catalog? In-store? A few examples:
TwelpForce - Call Center and Customer Support
Yes, it's an example that's gotten a lot of attention when it comes to customer service, but it's a great example of how call center and customer service can use social to address customer issues and questions, and even reduce volume while increasing customer satisfaction by enabling customer-to-customer conversations.
L.L. Bean - Catalog
L.L. Bean has been so successful gathering reviews and customer feedback on their site they decided to turn around and use that content in their catalog and collateral. The compelling point about using user generated content in printed material is it could help drive customers back to the site to learn more about the product as well as contribute their own feedback, yet again enabling that customer-to-customer conversation.
The Future - In-Store
Just as "multi-channel" terminology gave way to plain and simple "commerce," the word "mobile" is quickly becoming antiquated because "mobile" is just what everyone happens to be regardless of the device they use to send and retrieve information when they are out and about.
In the concept above, we are picturing an in-store social experience that happens to be supported by an iPad (but could be any mobile device really). A store associate could be on the floor with the device, showing a customer outfitting ideas, taking pictures of her modeling an outfit, and then helping the customer post the picture for friend feedback, or even using an app like FaceTime to let a customer call up a friend while in the store! Literal 'shop together' functionality. Or, perhaps the customer is given the device when they walk into a store and are free to truly engage with the brand and their social network on a level field.
So if you answered "yes" to any of my opening questions and are still not believing integrated social commerce is a direction in which your brand should start moving, give me a call and join the revolution.
Kim WIlliams-Czopek is the Director of User Experience Design at Fry.
For other thoughts on social, integrated commerce, user experience and design, follow us on Twitter @fryinsights