Archives for posts with tag: sales

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Filed under: and now, for something completely different… Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be an in-depth analysis of so-called case studies involving digital influencers, awareness campaigns and free swag. Just a few straightforward observations (maybe even insights) about this little-spoken-of confluence of fashion design and digital navel-gazing that the cynics among us might point out could very well be a sort of marriage made in heaven. While that’s neither here nor there, here’s what we got out of that information:

1. Leverage events.

Events like New York Fashion Week (and design houses participating in them) are now leveraging social media to increase their reach and penetrate markets. Case in point: Marc Jacobs gained over 5,000 new Twitter followers in one week by leveraging its digital presence during the fall event. Michael Kors gained an impressive 15,000 in the same time frame. Victoria Beckham (while not in Paris watching DB play for PSG) managed to gain 53,000 followers that week.

If your industry has big events, use them. It doesn’t matter if it’s CES, the Oscars or the Detroit auto show. Starting today, your business is going to have a digital/social media plan in place before you attend your industry events. Not taking advantage of this magnet for media coverage and attention borders on negligent.

2. Rethink the world of the catalog.

Badgley Mischka & Bergdorf Goodman, understanding the potential power of Pinterest (think demographics and layouts) previewed their new collection exclusively on the platform. The result: almost 40,000 net new followers for their Pinterest account, after posting only 42 items. Cost of printing: zero. Cost of mailing: zero. Cool factor: high. Virality quotient: high.

Well played.

3. Context is king.

Sometimes, a product is just a product. But anything that speaks to both an appreciation for original design and its owner/user’s sense of cultural identity is bound to be incorporated into someone’s photo feed. Enter Instagram. Whether you think the whole thing is an orgy of vanity or a cute little phase humanity is going through right now doesn’t matter. Fact is that people like to take pictures of themselves and of their stuff and post those pictures on Facebook and Instagram and wherever else they can. Some companies approach this with suspicion if not apprehension. Others embrace it completely. The fashion industry finds itself in a very unique position in regards to this whole cultural phenomenon because its entire existence is predicated upon people wanting to look good and be socially desirable. In other words, if Pinterest is a natural extension of the catalog, Instagram and Facebook are the natural extensions of people’s own private catwalks and red carpets. Some numbers:

Over 650,000 people follow Burberry’s Instagram account. 500,000 people follow Marc Jacobs’ Instagram account. Gucci: 350,000. Kate Spade: 300,000. And so on. You get the idea. And don’t cringe (especially you serious photographers out there) but 73 Instagram photos from New York Fashion Week were accepted into Getty Images’ library. Yes… times, they’re a-changin’. It isn’t a bad thing either: empowering people to share your products in a way that gives them both approval and context creates a free engine of discovery and recommendation. You want net new customers? You want to get people to covet your products and get off the fence about buying them? Well there you go.

4. Understand your key channels.

Sure, most of the channels you want to focus on are no-brainers: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram, and so on. But there might be some niche channels you need to leverage as well. For the fashion world right now, one of them seems to be Pose. The platform a) uses a user co-creation model to curate collections of “looks” that users can browse and b) integrates a shopping into the experience.

What’s the big deal? 1,000,000 users and 120 million images viewed per month.  How many people are opening your emails or taking time out of their day to come by your website?

Plant seeds in all the smart places. Not just where everyone else is planting theirs either. Plant them also in places where people come specifically to find the kind of stuff you want to sell.

5. Use infographics no matter what your industry is.

No need to go into lengthy explanations about this one. We would have probably never even heard of Pose had it not been for that infographic.

Lesson: It doesn’t matter if your business only sells peanut-shucking machines to the tabby aristocracy in the Democratic Republic of Catistan (yes, it’s… a real place): use infographics to help potential customers discover your company and your products.

6. Use hashtags.

One of several common denominator in all of those wins: the use of specific hashtags. Now, wait a minute… we know what you;re going to say: hashtags aren’t necessary or cool anymore. Well, half of that is just nonsense. While it’s true that they aren’t necessary for monitoring purposes, they are nonetheless helpful. Here are three reasons why: Identity, virality and measurement.

Identity: they provide context for social content. Virality: they’re social objects that invite participation and sharing. Measurement: necessary or not, they do make monitoring, measurement and reporting a little easier for your digital team. Using the attached infographic as an example, imagine how much of a pain it would be to effectively track every mention of New York Fashion Week without the #NYFW tag. By creating official hashtags, you help bring clarity and order to what might otherwise be an incoherent mess of social mentions.

7. Monitor digital channels for key activity.

Monitor and measure mentions, followers, comments, shares. Do this qualitatively and quantitatively. Measure that against visits to your websites, visits to your stores, impact on sales volume, brand awareness and brand sentiment. Use the proper tools. Use the proper methodology.  Treat this stuff like the job it is and not an afterthought. Treat social channels as the product discovery channels they are and strive to understand the mechanisms by which your social content and activity ultimately drives sales. It isn’t that hard, but it’s work and when you treat it like work, it pays off. Big time.

We hope that gave you some cool ideas to work on. And if our Command Center app can help, all the better. Big thanks to ebay deals  and Mashable for the infographic.

Cheers,

The Tickr team

PS: Feel free to join our growing digital community on Facebook and on Twitter and tell us what you think. (We won’t spam you. We promise.)

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At long last, we can finally unveil our new baby: Command Center. We’re super excited to finally be able to share this with you.

What can you expect? More power, more data and more screens, for starters. More search and monitoring customization too. Command Center basically takes Tickr and gives it… well, superpowers.

You know what though? We’ll get down into details of how to use it next week (we’ll also be launching a contest that will let you use Command Center to help you tell your story to the world). Right now, check out our revamped website and this quick one-minute demo of Command center‘s key features, how it works, and what it can do for you. (Click here or on the image below.)

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See? Digital monitoring and social business intelligence just got 100x simpler, slicker, and more powerful. (You’re welcome.)

Cheers,

The Tickr team

Also feel free to join our growing digital community on Facebook and on Twitter and tell us what you think. (We won’t spam you. We promise.)

How Organizations Structure Social Media Teams

Infographic by- GO-Gulf.com

Last week, we came across Go-Gulf’s social media team infographic (above) and found some of the numbers on it pretty interesting. (The infographic was based on a 2012 survey of more than 2,700 social media professionals conducted by Ragan/NASDAQ OMX Corporate Solutions.) Here is what jumped out at us:

1. 27% of companies surveyed still have dedicated social media teams, vs. 65% of companies having evolved towards functional social media integration.

2. In spite of the fact that 65% of companies surveyed assign social media responsibilities to employees with other duties, a whopping 82% of these companies report that less than only 1-3 people in their organization are involved with social media.

3. Only 22% of the companies surveyed are planning on hiring for social media related roles in 2013, and 25% are relying in some part on interns to manage some aspect of their social media programs.

4. Only 3% of the companies surveyed answered that a business background was a most sought-after quality in their social media hires.

5. 47% of companies consider that 1-3 years of social media experience is all their hires need.

6. The top three types of degrees most valued for social media roles were communications, PR and marketing.

7. Not surprisingly, the departments most likely to be involved with social media are Marketing, PR and corporate communications.

8. How is success measured? 86% of these organizations use likes and followers as their principal success metrics, followed by web traffic (74%) and deltas in reputation/brand sentiment (58%). Only 40% mentioned lead generation and 31% sales.

9. When asked what social media campaigns should be driving, the responses overwhelmingly pointed to increasing brand awareness (87%), followed by increasing web traffic (62%) and improving reputation (61%). Increasing sales and generating leads hovered between 40 and 45%. Improving customer service was in 6th place at 38%.

10. Almost half of the companies involved in the survey post content on social channels less than once per day.

11. When asked about major roadblocks in social media campaign measurement, 65% pointed to lack of time, 63% on inadequate manpower, 41% on lack of funding, and 39% admitted that it was not a priority. 39% also admitted that they were unsure of what tools they should use, and 23% thought that the task was “overwhelming.”

12. Only 5% of companies surveyed are highly satisfied with their social media programs. Almost 70% of companies were either somewhat satisfied or dissatisfied with their programs.

What does this tell us?

1. The goals are still wrong.

For starters, brand awareness should probably not be the primary objective of a social media campaign or program. Second, increasing sales should not occupy the 5th place. If half of companies still are not connecting the dots between social media activity and sales, there is a fundamental problem with how social media is being used by the average business. Speaking of that, if only 38% of companies are using social media to improve customer service, we still have a long road ahead. Note that market research and consumer insights did not even come up as an answer.

Tip: Focusing on the wrong goals leads to generating the wrong results.

2. There is a disconnect between what companies claim to be focusing on and what they are actually measuring.

87% of companies surveyed state that their focus is brand awareness, but the principal units of measure for it, according to this survey, are likes and followers. (Note: net changes in mentions might be a better indicator of brand awareness.) So basically, they are measuring the wrong things. That’s not good.

While 61% of companies claim to be focused on improving reputation, only 58% of them actually measure it. A similar gap exists between the 40% of companies listing increasing sales as an objective versus only 31% measuring social media’s impact on sales. This is puzzling. Why are so many companies not measuring key performance indicators?

The survey aims to answer that question, but here we run into a strange set of answers:

Not enough time: 65%

Not enough people: 63%

Not enough money: 41%

Not a priority: 39%

Unsure of what tools to use: 39%

Too hard: 23%

Let’s address those excuses one at a time:

Not enough time/not enough people comes from the fact that 82% of companies only have 1-3 employees touching social media campaigns. Only 9% have 6+ employees involved with their social media programs. (Note that 78% of these companies have no plans to hire more social media staff in 2013.) Solution: either start deploying more social media responsibilities across the rest of your organization or get help. Either hire someone or partner with an agency to fill the gaps as needed.

Not enough money should have nothing to do with an organization’s ability to measure basic KPIs. That 41% of companies checked that box is pretty puzzling.

Not a priority came in at 39%. That’s just shameful. Measuring KPIs is part of the job. It should be a priority for 100% of social media professionals.

To understand the unsure of what tools to use/too hard excuse, we have to look at the background and experience of the average social media professional touched by this survey. First, the majority of these companies preferred social media professionals with only 1-3 years of experience to those with 3-5 or more. Inexplicably, only 3% of respondents identified a business background as a sought-after quality in a social media professional’s background.

Tip: if 97% of your social media professionals don’t have business backgrounds, how do you expect them to understand business measurement?

Not to sound harsh, but when 39% of social media “professionals” either don’t see KPI measurement as a priority or don’t know what tools to use to measure the success of their campaigns, then 39% of social media professionals don’t have the basic qualifications to even be social media professionals. Either train them or replace them.

3. Only 5% of businesses are happy with their social media programs. Let’s fix that.

No kidding. Let’s consider why:

- Let’s start with 39% of social media professionals not really knowing how to show the value of their own social media programs and campaigns to their bosses (or not thinking of it as a priority). Fix: hire competent professionals.

- Speaking of hiring competent people, if your team consists only of communications, marketing and PR professionals, it is incomplete. Your social media team (dedicated or not) must also include customer service professionals, product managers, business analysts, and salespeople. Tip: the reason you aren’t selling anything is probably because no one from sales is even looking at your social media program. Fix: Change that.

Once you start focusing less on marketing and more on customer service, you will see an immediate change in engagement. Expect a positive change in online sentiment inside of a week as well. You will also see a boost in mentions and recommendations. (Measure all of that.)

Also, once you start monitoring keywords and mentions (your brand, your products, product categories, mentions of behaviors associated with purchases of your products, campaign hashtag mentions, etc.) social media channels will become three things for you: a) lead generation engines, b) customer retention engines, and c) market research engines. So take the time to test monitoring tools. Use them side by side. (Build mini digital monitoring centers). Listen with purpose and we promise that the the value of your social media program will no longer be a question mark for the people you answer to.

- Now let’s talk about goals. Does anyone really think that brand awareness is more important to a business than sales? Of course not. If you don’t agree, here’s something to chew on: what does brand awareness ultimately drive? (Answer: sales.)

Fix: forget what social media gurus have been selling you in their e-books. Social media campaigns’ goals should be aligned with your organization’s goals. What this means: If your company’s goal for 2013 is to increase sales by 11% YoY, then the primary goal of your social media program/campaign should be to help drive that 11% increase. That will be its macro objective for the year. Now let’s look at the series of micro objectives that feed into that:

    1. Net new customer acquisition
    2. Increasing customer loyalty/retention
    3. Focus on customer development
      • increase buy rate / frequency of transactions
      • increase yield (average value of transactions)

Everything that your social media team does should focus on these three areas. The awareness, word-of-mouth, engagement, likes, followers, mentions and visits are among the many vehicles your organization should use to drive these specific outcomes. Think about how to build new value for your customers. Think about how to create better customer experiences. Think about how social media channels, activity and tools will help you become a smarter business, a better business, a more useful business, a more pleasant business.

Tip: Pair a customer service representative with a digital marketing person and let them work side-by side with a handful of monitoring tools for two weeks. Do the same thing with a salesperson and your PR/crisis management person. Then bring both 2-person teams together and turn it into a 4-person team. (They don’t have to be literally side-by-side, but it helps if you can work it that way.) The value of that type of cross-functional collaboration will become evident when your social media activity begins to drive the above objectives.

 Okay, that’s it for today. We hope what we covered here will help many of you improve your social media program’s results. (Let’s get that highly satisfied stat up from that lousy 5% by January 2014, okay?) We’ll keep bringing you tips and insights, so check back with us often. (We’re also on Twitter and on Facebook, so subscribe to our no-spam feeds there.) And if you haven’t added Tickr to your digital monitoring toolkit yet, just click here and kick the tires a bit. We’re pretty sure you’ll like it.

Cheers,

The Tickr team.

Don’t get any ideas. We don’t actually have a crystal ball in the office. Well… there’s the magic eight-ball and it’s never been wrong, but a crystal ball, no. Not yet at least. But as we have begun to find out, combining a few pairs of eyes, a little curiosity and some solid monitoring software is kind of the next best thing. Over the last few months, we have been looking at technology, culture and business trends to see what business wanted, what consumers wanted, where technology was and who was working on what, and we have come up with a few predictions for where things seem to be headed in the world of digital over the course of the next twelve months. Here are five that we feel pretty strongly about:

1. Mobile gets even bigger.

The trend has been pointing to an increasing shift from desktop internet access to mobile internet access for years now. This will not change in 2013. A few bits of relevant data:

A year ago, ebay bet big on mobile. The result: Roughly $10B in mobile revenue in 2012 (more than double what it was in 2011). That’s a purchase every 2 seconds. The company plans to continue to create mobile-specific transaction vehicles and content to make it even easier for sellers and buyers to use mobile devices. Mobile now also drives 22% of QVC’s digital sales. If you are not continuously working on making it easier for your customers to transact with you (or each other) via mobile devices, you need to. (Even if you are a small brick & mortar retailer, take a serious look at the possibility of enabling mobile checkouts.)

Of all searches on the web, roughly 30% now come from mobile devices. According to a BIA/Kelsey report, mobile searches will continue to catch up to desktop searches, generating 27.8 billion more queries by 2016. Even now (still at about 30%), this trend is especially important for brick & mortar businesses as the majority of mobile searches are local. Restaurants, bakeries, hardware stores, florists and other specialty retailers, take note.

Mobile paths to purchase are hot. A 2012 study by Telmetrics and mobile ad network xAd suggests that roughly 50% of mobile search queries in travel, restaurants and automotive verticals result in some kind of transaction. The number is highest for restaurants (85%), followed by automotive (51%), with travel lagging in third but at a no less impressive 46%. As stated earlier, the study also notes that local searches tend to have higher conversion rates.

If your digital strategy is not yet focused on mobile, time to change that.

Bonus: you can find pretty much every relevant 2012 mobile statistic here.

2. Apps take a bite out of the “old” web.

As tablets and other mobile devices are increasingly becoming our web interfaces of choice, apps are redefining how we think of digital access and web experiences. The “web” is quickly moving away from websites and turning to apps. While this does not signal the death of websites, businesses will have to think very seriously about how consumers are now accessing digital content, and what their expectations are in terms of digital experiences.

Some stats: There were 45.6 billion mobile app downloads made this year, nearly double the 25 billion downloads in 2011. Over six years, the progression looks like this:

2011: 24.9 billion

2012: 45.6 billion

2013: 81.4 billion

2014: 131.7 billion

2015: 205.3 billion

2016: 309.6 billion

Just as companies found themselves adding Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and Youtube channels to their digital footprints four years ago, apps are cementing themselves as the new digital interaction frontier. Successful brands will continue to create a variety of digital experiences based on the types of interfaces their customers (and potential customers) use, and apps will become the increasingly crucial gateways between them and their markets.

3. Social media continues to be a mess of confusion for businesses, but… insights.

Confusion about how to properly use social channels to grow consumer communities, increase meaningful engagement, drive new business and increase brand loyalty will still plague organizations focused more on traffic and likes than on actually changing consumer attitudes and behaviors. Social platforms like Facebook, Google+, Instagram and Twitter will continue to struggle with their revenue models and long term value to users. Measuring success (including but not limited to ROI) will continue to mix sensible, business-focused data points and social media guru-driven nonsensical value equivalency equations and ROI calculators.

There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel: digital intelligence tool will make it easier to dig through social channels for consumer insights and paths of opportunity. By combining digital monitoring tools and a new generation of social channel-facing CRM solutions, brands with the will to derive more pertinent insights from specific consumers and their target markets at large will be able to do so faster and cheaper than ever before. Data analysts and consumer insights specialists will increasingly see their disciplines merge as their tools become more powerful.

4. Digital mission control centers to the rescue!

With an ever increasing need for real time market data and insights from Customer Support, Marketing, PR, Business Development, Sales, and other business functions, expect to see greater investments in digital infrastructure. Major brands and the agencies that serve them have already begun to build digital mission control centers that allow them to keep tabs on a variety of channels (many of them social) and track mentions of their brands and products, monitor shifts in perception (positive or negative), track the success of specific marketing and advertising campaigns, monitor consumers’ reactions to a product launch and correlate that data to sales numbers in real time, prevent (or manage) PR crises, conduct market research, and so on.

These mission control centers will vary in size and complexity, but the trend towards creating multi-screen environments for project management teams is accelerating and for good reason: the complexity of digital channels demands new solutions and a new approach to real-time information management. Don’t worry though. This new complexity is balanced by a new generation of digital monitoring, management and visualization tools that make it easier than ever for companies to manage campaigns and workflows and organize themselves around data.

(Speaking of that, we will be releasing a pretty hot new product very soon, so stay tuned. We’re pretty sure that you’re going to like it!)

5. Big brother gets pushed out by big mother.

We’ve all heard about big brother. Looking at the amount of information collected on us each day by search engines, social media platforms and even our mobile devices, it’s easy to start feeling as if our privacy is being incessantly invaded. Many consumers have already begun to push back against digital intrusion, or at the very least, distrust it. Well, the flip side of the privacy coin may just be the concept of big mother.

Unlike big brother, big mother is not interested in exploiting your data. Big Mother has your best interest in mind. Her main concern is to analyze your tastes and habits so she can better understand and predict your needs. If you are familiar with Apple’s digital assistant, think of a more focused and insights-driven Siri. So how does big mother look on the consumer side of the digital divide? For starters, she shields you from ads you don’t want to see and instead makes ads that are both time and topic-relevant visible to you. She allows you to control the degree to which you want your digital experiences to be interrupted by commercial messages. (For instance, you may want to turn off targeted ads and special offers while you are at work, but turn them on while you are out shopping.) She also allows you to be more or less open to local ads and offers where and when you want to be. Big mother is essentially an intelligent filter whose degree of initiative you can control. “It’s almost lunch time and I want to eat someplace new today” becomes a prompt for action driven by big mother’s insights about your tastes, the time of day, your spending habits and your surroundings.

On the business side of big mother, what you have is data. If you are a pizza restaurant, big mother can let you know that right this minute, 130 people who like to eat pizza twice per week are within five blocks of your location, and that 25 of them have their local notifications turned on. For a small fee, you can choose to push an ad or an offer their way through a social channel or SMS. This push notification will not come across as spam since those 25 individuals have made themselves open to them. If, like mobile search, 85% of passive prompts from a big mother-enabled device result in a transaction, an investment of a few dollars could result in significant net new revenue and potentially a whole new set of new customers.

This organic approach to real-time, predictive marketing works because consumers are in control of it. Remember “permission marketing?” This uses mobile devices to make it a reality. It also eliminates spam and scattershot targeting (which is no kind of targeting at all), cuts down on ad spend waste, increases conversions, and does it all without betraying consumer trust. Side benefits: increased potential for social discovery, more opportunities for word-of-mouth recommendations (digital and otherwise), facilitates (and relies on) mobile payments, and above all, saves consumers time. Done well, the experience itself will be fun and cool.

The idea behind big mother is to create value for both consumers and businesses. It’s to give everyone more of what they want and less of what they don’t. By combining consumer data, social data and mobile functionality, big mother is will begin to become a reality in 2013. The first company to successfully create a slick, user-friendly interface, the connective tissue that makes it work across an ecosystem of digital channels and the marketplace that makes it all possible will literally revolutionize digital marketing and mobile commerce. It may be premature to expect something like before December 31, 2013, but as the conditions are right (the technology is available and there is a real revenue model attached to it), we could very well see the first versions of a big mother app turn up sometime in 2013. We’re crossing our fingers.

There’s a lot more exciting stuff on the calendar for 2013, but we’ll leave it at that for now. Happy 2013, everyone!

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Last week, Mashable’s Lauren Indvik published an articled based on a study by Forrester Research which states that only 1% of online purchases are driven by social media. (You can purchase the full report for $499 here.) The piece’s title, naturally, was “Social media Influences Less than 1% of Online Purchases. [STUDY]

If you find that statistic surprising, don’t worry. Your gut feeling isn’t leading you astray. We’ll come back to that. First though, let’s dive a little deeper into some of the claims made in the piece:

“Ecommerce businesses should concentrate more of their efforts on traditional online marketing tactics like search and e-mail than social media. That’s the conclusion of a Forrester study released Tuesday, which examined 77,000 online transactions made between April 1 and April 14. The study found that less than 1% of them could be traced back to social networks like Facebook or Pinterest.

Determining how web activity influences purchases is tricky; although many often credit the last touchpoint for a sale, Forrester found that half of repeat customers and a third of new customers touch multiple touchpoints prior to a purchase. As such, certain funnels, like display advertising and e-mail, may be undervalued.

Nevertheless, ecommerce websites still convert more highly than any other channel, accounting for 30% of transactions. Thus it’s smart for retailers to promote their domain names as much as possible.

Following direct visits, organic search and paid search are the two biggest drivers of purchases from new customers, accounting for 39% of new customer transactions. That’s because the web continues to be a useful tool for what Forrester calls “spear fishers” — consumers who know what they are looking for and find it through search.

For repeat shoppers, e-mail is the most effective sales influencer: Nearly a third of purchases from repeat customers initiated with an e-mail. As such, businesses should up their efforts to collect e-mail addresses, and tailor their e-mail marketing messages to each recipients’ device and prior purchase behavior.

Social media’s potential as a shopping portal has yet to be realized. Less than 1% of transactions from both new and repeat shoppers could be linked to social networks, Forrester found.

That said, the researcher believes social media can still be a powerful marketing tool, and that social media’s influence on purchase behavior likely can’t be measured in the 30-day attribution window the report examined. Forrester also asserts that social media is a bigger sales driver for small businesses, which were not included in the study.”

The study was also picked up by several other media outlets, including Business Insider, which quotes Sucharita Mulpuru – the author of the report. Her conclusion:

Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers. While the hype around social networks as a driver of influence in eCommerce continues to capture the attention of online executives, the truth is that social continues to struggle and registers as a barely negligible source of sales for either new or repeat buyers. In fact, fewer than 1% of transactions for both new and repeat shoppers could be traced back to trackable social links.” (Source)

“Trackable” social links.

Has you brain caught up to your gut yet? If not, let me throw a few thoughts your way:

1. The study is based on flawed assumptions: There’s a problem with the study’s understanding of social media’s role in the customer journey (paths to purchase). The study, for instance, states that direct visits to e-commerce sites drive the most sales. Really? All right. Here’s a question: How did people initially get to the e-commerce site? Before we can talk about paths to purchase, can we at least consider their path to discovery? Was the site recommended? Did it turn up on a search? How and where did retailers promote their domain names, exactly (which the article suggests they should do)? Beyond discovery, how were shoppers’ purchases influenced by peers and other shoppers, via social networks, digital or not?

The study doesn’t look into any of this. It obviously is just working backwards from a purchase by tracking clicks, and probably no more than 4-5 deep. Sorry, but except for impulse shoppers, that isn’t how things work. Shoppers don’t typically follow robotic, linear paths from discovery to transaction. So that’s one problem already, and the numbers reflect it pretty clearly. Perhaps the clearest way to explain the first problem with this study is that it doesn’t seem to measure the “Purchase Path of online Buyers” in 2012. Instead, it appears to just measure the final sprint.

2. The study is based on flawed methodology: The study’s attribution model is wrong. If you have been in the business of selling things to human beings for a few years, you probably know that it takes more than just one “touchpoint” to convince someone to become a new customer, especially online. The study, however, would have us believe that 67% of transactions from new customers were the result of just one touchpoint. (20% of those being a direct visit to the e-commerce site.)

Not likely. Even more puzzling, the percentage attributed to single-touchpoint sales remains precisely the same for returning customers: 20%. Think about that for a minute.

Again, the study appears to mistakenly assume that paths to purchase are linear and can be measured simply by backtracking clicks. That’s what the mention of “trackable social links” was all about. We have known for some time that “last click” attribution is a flawed model. For the same reasons, “last 4-5 clicks” is also a flawed model. I suspect that the methodology behind this study was as influenced as it was limited by the technology it relied on to collect its data.

From where I stand, the methodology used in this study is completely wrong for what it attempts to do. Take a look at the graphic below and give it some thought. What do you see?

3. The authors of the study misunderstand the relationship between social content and search: The impact of social media on search (and therefore discovery) is utterly ignored in this study. Given what we know of social content’s importance to search, this is a bizarre and inexplicable oversight. Social drives sales directly AND indirectly by greatly impacting search. This isn’t news. And yet…

4. The study’s scope is limited to the enterprise… but isn’t particularly forthcoming about that: As stated by Business Insider, “Mulpuru didn’t study small businesses, which she said do disproportionately well in social commerce.”

How about that.

Two questions come to mind:

First, why wouldn’t the study also look at small businesses? Surely… if you know that they “do disproportionately well in social commerce,” there must be data that supports that statement. Where is it? Why wasn’t it included in this study? Why does doing well in social commerce disqualify small businesses from being part of this study? Was the intent of the study to… convince businesses that social channels aren’t effective? I don’t get it.

Second, why would the study not make it clear in its reporting that it only looked at enterprise sized businesses? Where in this language is the general public given the slightest indication that the study’s conclusions only apply to the enterprise? Here it is again:

Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers. While the hype around social networks as a driver of influence in eCommerce continues to capture the attention of online executives, the truth is that social continues to struggle and registers as a barely negligible source of sales for either new or repeat buyers. In fact, fewer than 1% of transactions for both new and repeat shoppers could be traced back to trackable social links.”

Hmm. “Hype” versus “truth.” Okay… No bias there, obviously.

However, to be fair to the public, should the statement not look more like this instead?…

Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers for enterprise e-commerce sites. While the hype around social networks as a driver of influence in eCommerce continues to capture the attention of online executives, the truth is that social continues to struggle and registers as a barely negligible source of sales for either new or repeat buyers, at least in the enterprise space. In fact, fewer than 1% of transactions for both new and repeat shoppers for enterprise-class businesses could be traced back to trackable social links.

That would be a more appropriate way to phrase all that.

Furthermore, why was this enterprise distinction not mentioned in the study’s title? “The Purchase Path of Online Buyers in 2012″ isn’t exactly indicative of the study’s focus on large businesses, is it.

If you think that is just a minor detail, see item 7, below. You will understand the full impact of this “oversight.” But first, this:

5. The study fails to understand the relationship between time, discoverability, and trust when it comes to the social customer: The study states that “Forrester partnered with GSI Commerce to examine 77,000 consumer orders made over a period of 14 days in April 2012.”

The study only lasted 14 days.

The nature of social media being what it is (relationship-based), leaving yourself only 14 days to track a social customer’s path from discovery to purchase is not an appropriate, realistic timeframe. This screams of automation and basic linear click attribution fallacies. So much for the development of online relationships, organic social integration, word of mouth, etc.

6. The study fails to take into account overlapping fields of influence in a shopper’s decision-making process: Paths to purchase are typically impacted by multiple, sometimes concurrent experiences. Some may be prompts (like an email promotion or a banner ad – which the study takes into account), but others may be recommendations from friends (online and offline), a preponderance of positive brand or product mentions on social channels, reading user reviews, social validation in the form of product or brand “likes” by trusted friends, and even direct interaction with a brand’s social channels, not to mention offline influences as well.

A study that attempts to understand and map “the purchase path of online buyers in 2012″ cannot ignore those factors. Not if it hopes to be taken seriously. By putting “trackable links” ahead of actual purchase paths, the study completely missed the mark on the role that social media plays in the customer journey – not only when it comes to mapping the path from discovery to first purchase, but also in regards to customer development as well (the path from first purchase to measurable loyalty). Poorly done.

7. Questionable reporting: Although the study is titled ” The Purchase Path of Online Buyers in 2012,” Forrester decided to market it by leading with this headline: “Less than 1% of online purchases come from social channels” (source). How did the most flagrant red flag in the study’s methodology become the study’s principal selling point? Your guess is as good as mine. The best i can come up with is that controversy sells.

The result:

Mashable covered the story using this title: “Social media Influences Less than 1% of Online Purchases. [STUDY]

Business Insider’s Title: “Forrester: Facebook and Twitter do almost nothing to drive sales.

BizReport: “Forrester: Facebook will never be a retail sales channel.

Internet Retailer: “Social media posts don’t lead to sales.

You get the picture. And so we come full circle to Mashable’s article, which gives business executives the following advice:

“Ecommerce businesses should concentrate more of their efforts on traditional online marketing tactics like search and e-mail than social media.”

This kind of nonsense gives me headaches. It really does.

Now don’t get me wrong: at the end of the day, it may very well be that social channels only contribute to 1% of online sales for many businesses. Most of us have seen strong evidence to the contrary in our own ecosystems (mostly double-digits from where I am sitting, except for category leaders in mature markets), and companies like Burberry might even disagree about that, but all right. For the sake of argument, let’s say that for the corners of the business world that we haven’t had any contact with, the number is indeed 1%. But even if that were the case, this study’s methodology would still be wrong in the way it arrived at that number. It’s just bad science, poor analysis and not particularly responsible reporting.

Most of us already know from experience that more often than not, the only thing standing between a company and its success is access to actionable market insights. Bad data or flawed analysis can lead to poor strategic decisions – from bad investments to completely missing the mark with a product or a campaign. Likewise, accurate data and insightful analysis can lead to terrific strategic decisions and score game-changing wins for a challenger or emerging brand. This stuff is important. It’s vital. There is just no room for bad science and poorly managed studies. Not when trust in your studies and market analysis comes with expectations of thorough expertise.

So the lesson here is this: Do your homework. Don’t assume that a “study” is accurate and factual just because it was done by a reputable company. Do your homework. Look for flaws, for red flags, for insights that ring a little wrong. Better yet, go find your own answers. Write your own case studies. Join our growing community of companies for whom social media is responsible for a lot more than just 1% in net new sales revenue. You’ll be glad you did.

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