A huge conversation has built up around the potential of social media. Much of this debate has centered on the potential for PR and marketing. However, not much attention has been paid to the idea of social media as a customer feedback mechanism. Web and social media is going to take an increasing share of your overall feedback footprint. However, don’t forget that taking positive offline feedback and using it to fuel online feedback channels can have big benefits.
Consumers these days rarely consider making a purchase of any kind of product or service without some ‘due diligence’ online. Not only will people use online research to help make a purchase decision, they will use it to post–rationalize a decision they have already taken. The feedback footprint of a business will help set an expectation of the product or service a customer will experience. Failure to live up to that experience will potentially lead to disappointed customers going somewhere else in the future — and sharing their poor experience with others.
Consumers have changed, and they have changed the shopping process, too. Instead of browsing through several stores, finding something and buying it in a continuous sequence, they use technology to weave in and out of the shopping process wherever and whenever they want. So what was once an uninterrupted flow is turning into a series of “moments”: the moment of first becoming aware of a product, the moment of researching it, the moment of purchasing it and the moment of taking possession.
These moments may be separated by days or even weeks. Many consumers in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States wait at least seven days between learning about a new item and purchasing it, for example. Consumers in the growth markets, by contrast, are more likely to purchase a product immediately or within a couple of days. The shopping process has not only become more fragmented, it has also become more compressed. Time-starved smarter consumers can now go online to get the information they want in a matter of minutes, whereas once they might have spent an hour wandering through the store. Moreover, some of the biggest influences on smarter consumers during the moments when they first become aware of a product and research it are in their own hands. They are not simply responding to advertising and promotions; they are consulting their families and friends, using search engines and looking at mobile applications like ‘ShopSavvy’ – media that are completely outside a retailer’s control
Serve me, don’t sell to me
It used to be relatively easy for retailers to identify their target customers, reach them and sell to them. These days, it’s very hard. Smarter consumers are departing from their demographic and socioeconomic roots. They are also using technology to commandeer the driving seat and control their own shopping experiences. When they enter a retailer’s store or view its Web site, they usually know what they want because they have already talked to their families and friends and read the product reviews. They are the experts.
So how can retailers respond? Our survey shows that what smarter consumers really want is to be served, not sold to. They are telling retailers: listen to me, know me and empower me.
This new type of integrated insight allows them to: identify and deliver targeted offers, dramatically improve campaign performance, recommend content in real-time, and develop content to satisfy and delight audiences. To get there, data-driven M&E companies are taking full advantage of next-generation audience insights platforms that enable a specific set of use cases to drive new capabilities and business value.
To ensure they pass the users’ screening test, marketers should remember some key points:
- Set accurate and realistic expectations
The high expectations for social didn’t happen by accident. It’s a direct result of social media gurus and software providers promising too much. The reality is a lot less sexy: building a relationship with customers takes time, and there’s simply a lot of noise in the space. Building relationships with customers takes time. Set realistic social media expectations.
- Reduce noise and provide real value
We’re simply putting too much junk out there. For example, all the buzz about real-time marketing last year came about as a result of brands wanting to join the conversation. But the ROI for real-time marketing is still very much unknown, and brands’ efforts to tweet during live and major events usually fall flat or flat out fail. The better—but less sexy—solution is to provide real value with our content. Think value instead of interruption. McDonald’s is doing it, and so is American Express. These established brands show that people care about content that’s useful, informative and provocative.
- Know when to pay
The idea that social media as primarily an earned media channel is outdated. We’re now in the era of converged media—a time when paid efforts are used to amplify owned and earned story assets. Yes, Facebook reach is down, and there’s too much noise on Twitter. Tough. But if we’re confident that our content provides value, then we shouldn’t hesitate to make the financial investment to get more people to see it. Just make sure you’re not paying to advertise junk content.