Live From NEMOA: Eastwood Gets Social With Customers

Mar 14, 2008 4:09 AM  By

Cambridge, MA–When it comes to social networking, Eastwood may have a head start. That’s because the automotive enthusiast company’s customers have been getting together to talk about and help with car restoration projects well before the company was found 30 years ago.

Eastwood has social networking online since 2004; the tactic has to helps it engage customers, acquire and retain prospects, and build its brand identity. The merchant discovered that page views were soaring, and by checking out its Web metrics, it was able to determine how and where it can engage enthusiasts online: through the blogs and message boards linking back to its Website.

So the company started by adding forums to its Web channel, said Peter Kosciewicz, who is responsible for the development and implementation of Eastwood’s multichannel contact strategy. “We waned to be involved, but not guide, the decision process,” Kosciewicz said. “So instead of making it a product-specific forum, we decided to make it a solution specific, because there was nothing like that online.”

It then added two blogs to its site, one of which was actually recycled from an enthusiast who documented the restoration of a classic automobile through his personal Weblog. That way it would be able to add fresh content on a daily basis.

Eastwood then had to get its inhouse enthusiasts to start blogging. “At first they were shy, because they had a lot of information, but they were afraid of giving customers advice that may not work,” Kosciewicz said. “But now they are rock stars.”

The constant postings to the blogs and forums helped raise Eastwood’s status on the Web. With content constantly changing, it meant stronger search engine optimization. And as the merchant evolved its social networking plan, Eastwood discovered it readers were on MySpace, and posting videos online.

So Eastwood, too, launched a MySpace page, and began posting videos to YouTube. Both of those forums allowed it to also expand its unique page views. And some Eastwood enthusiasts decided to make their own how-to videos, which allowed the merchant to add user-generated content to its blogs and forums.

There no question that social media has Eastwood from a branding standpoint. But does all this social intercourse translate to increased sales? It sure does:

• When Eastwood looks at its buyer file, forum members buy 289% more frequently than non-forum members.
• Forum members are also less likely to be one-time customers; 72.7% of them are multibuyers, and forum prospects convert at a 12% rate. “There’s no list or co-op that will do that for you,” Kasciewicz said.
• Product reviews, added in 2004, are 95% positive. Customers who read reviews of products are converting 24% better than those who don’t; items with reviews convert 37% better than similar items that do not include reviews.
• When it added all its videos to YouTube, they became viral. Customer-generated video content boosted conversion for those products by 42%.

What’s next for Eastwood? Kosciewick says he’s envisioning mobile marketing, since the company has seen forum and blog responses coming from Blackberries and the like. It’s also looking into desktop widgets, interactive gadgets users download that help keep a brand top-of-mind, he said.