How Social Media Can Bridge the Multichannel Gap

Oct 01, 2011 1:20 AM  By

Social media has phenomenal potential for retailers, as it enables them to provide real-time promotions, receive feedback on new and existing products and generate sales. But to fully leverage social, retailers cannot view it as a singular channel that can be checked off by simply creating a Facebook fan page or establishing a Twitter account.

To be truly impactful, and deliver increased traffic and sales, social must be integrated into existing marketing channels – such as a brand’s own website and email lists. Social allows a brand to unlock the hidden power of their own customers and turn them into a successful marketing channel.

Here are a few tips for executing a multichannel social marketing program – specifically one that leverages customer referrals:

1. Insert social elements into traditional channels (website and email) first, focus on building your social presence second.
Some of the highest returns from social programs come when marketers “socialize” their website and email communications.

Integrating social sharing and referral features directly into multiple locations on a brand’s website, such as the home page or the order confirmation page, allows a marketer to capitalize on an already mature channel that speaks directly to loyal, happy customers.

Many retailers have seen great results when they offer their existing customers an incentive to share their experiences with their friends via a social referral at the time of purchase. Existing customers are willing to provide a social referral about the brand to their extended social graph via email, personal URLs, Facebook, Twitter and other social channels. The power of these peer-to-peer referrals drives traffic back to the brand’s website and feeds the purchasing funnel at a rate that is more effective than traditional digital marketing channels.

This thinking also applies to email. A brand can easily ask its consumers to socially share their thoughts and endorsements and refer their friends via a dedicated email blast or e-mail newsletter that appears in their inbox shortly after the time of purchase.

These social referral emails have an open rate that is on average three times greater than traditional brand directed emails. Since the email referral is coming from a trusted source, their friend, consumers are more willing to open the email and take action by going to the brand’s website and in many cases make a purchase.

Folica, an online retailer of hair care and hair styling tools, is a great example of how to integrate social elements into existing channels. Folica recently learned from reading online product reviews that new customers often bought from the site because friends told them about it.

In response, Folica launched a viral, social referral program powered by the Extole platform on its website and via email that offered customers who referred others a $10 credit toward future purchases at Folica.com when a referral resulted in a purchase. The referred customer also received a $10 credit as an incentive to make their first purchase.

Within 30 days of launching the campaign, 93% of the referral e-mails customers sent to friends were opened, and 22% of those who opened a referral e-mail clicked through to visit Folica.com. An impressive16% went on to make a purchase. This 16% conversion to purchase rate represents a 433% improvement over the current industry average ecommerce conversion rate of 2.9% and proves the power social referrals can bring to your marketing channels if applied correctly.

2. Provide a customized incentive with strings attached
Very few people will refer products and companies to their friends without an incentive. So retailers and brands must come up with an incentive that is both cost-effective and compelling.

Roku, a marketer of streaming entertainment devices for the TV (and an Extole customer), knows how to customize the incentive to the audience. Roku found out that more than 80% of its customers are Netflix subscribers, so it offered customers one free month of Netflix movies for every referral that led to a purchase on Roku.com. Using this approach, over the course of six months, Roku increased customer-based referrals by 30% and generated more than $250,000 in revenue.

Other tips for incentives include offering them to both the referrer and the referee and rewarding them only when a definitive action, such as registering or making a purchase, is taken.

3. Offer multiple sharing options for the widest reach
Consumers like to have options and sharing on social channels is no exception. For example, one consumer might use Facebook for close personal relationships only, while another has a wide variety of friends and contacts on Facebook.

Offering consumers multiple sharing options such as email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, personal URLs, embed code, etc. will allow them to share when and where they want. It will also increase the chance that they will share in the first place, providing the retailer with greater reach and impact.

4. Test and optimize
One of the most interesting things about social programs is that the audience on your Facebook.com brand page may respond completely differently than the audience on your twitter.com brand page. Be sure to use a social referral platform that allows you to track and optimize the responses to social posts and incentives on different channels.

Sometimes the difference between success and failure is an image and sometimes it is the copy or call to action. This ongoing testing and optimization practice has been used in relation to websites and banner ads for years. Now retailers must apply this practice to all social marketing channels.

5. Track what matters
Not only should retailers track results such as likes, followers, +1s, etc. but also – and perhaps more important – which referrals through which channels convert to sales at the highest rate.

For example there may be fewer referrals that come via Twitter, but the ones that do convert at a higher rate than other channels. Not only will this information help maximize current campaign results, but also, it will assist in directing future campaigns.

Trevor Legwinski is director of marketing at social media firm Extole.