Facebook has released a beta version of a new form of messaging to a select few of its 500 million users that has important implications for the digital communication methods of retailers. The new platform allows easy filtering of Facebook messages, SMS, MMS, and emails within a personalized “social inbox” tied directly to each user’s Facebook friends. This platform puts a new premium on the delivery of promotional messages that are relevant, timely, and valued, and those retailers who miss the boat will risk losing the communication channel with their users. The traditional methods of mass-messaging to any email address or phone number on record will no longer be effective; the time is now for retailers to start using point-of-sale software capable of collecting and synthesizing data about their customer preferences and segmentation.
With the economy continuing to cast a cloud on consumers, the number of shoppers basing store and brand selection decisions on price is increasing.
Accordingly, for those retailers who cannot compete on price it is increasingly important to identify new ways to engage with their customer base. It’s unrealistic to expect that operating the business the same way and using the same tools will impact the growing number of price-sensitive shoppers. Personalized marketing is certainly one way to connect with customers, but delivering personalized messaging along with targeted value is a more powerful combination.
Apple recently released their first attempt at a social media application, Ping, and so far the results have not been pretty. In essence, Ping is an internet driven messaging app that was built with the hopes of marrying iTunes and Facebook. Many users are frustrated with the lack of connectivity between the two platforms, and by the fact that simply listening to a song on your iTunes isn’t enough to inform your Facebook friends that you “like” a particular artist. Another major issue has been the fact that users cannot listen to their entire library through Ping, as they had been able to do with Lala. The major question now seems to be why hasn’t Apple been able to produce a social media tool with the usual “this is so cool, I have to have it!” Apple-functionality built into it? A number of analysts are suggesting that the music industry and its conglomerate of recording labels has been extremely resistant to Apple launching iTunes with Facebook connectivity because of the risks it would pose for music sharing among iTunes “friends”. What remains to be seen now is whether Apple will be able to negotiate better terms with the music labels to enhance its Ping platform, or whether they’ll simply have to choose another tact for the service and figure out a new play into social media.
As social media continues to establish itself as the predominant information source for consumers, brands and retailers are finding themselves at the mercy of public opinion and looking for new ways to affect what is being said about them and their products online. This new paradigm of communication has paved the way for a number of innovative corporate campaigns, including “crowdsourced R&D” to monitor and extract new product ideas from online conversations, rapid social marketing response in an attempt to offset negative press surrounding a company and its products, and peer-to-peer unpaid marketing teams that are strategically placed to communicate and influence conversations with other consumers about a specific product or company.
Additionally, according to Altimeter Group’s Ray Wang and Jeremiah Owyang, there are five pillars of building a successful CRM program within the social media space; “the 5 M’s of Social CRM”: Monitoring, Mapping, Management, Middleware, Measurement. Essentially this breaks down into monitoring conversations about you and your products on social media outlets so that social profiles can be mapped out and connected to better understand relationships. From there, data is made actionable for management through effective processes, and middleware is used to connect to the consumers in the social media space. The final piece is to measure the effectiveness and impact of a campaign against a company’s goals and strategic objectives. Corporations are becoming much more intelligent in understanding the influence that organic, peer-to-peer conversations in the social media space can have on their business and have started to adapt their strategies accordingly; definitely something to keep in mind the next time you get a recommendation to try a great new product from a Facebook “friend”.
The seemingly endless growth in third party online services available to retailers to help them drive brand awareness, launch promotions and generate store traffic is a wonderful thing to see. The availability of LBS services, group buying, aggregated electronic coupon sites, mobile shopping lists, social media, etc. has launched some incredibly creative campaigns.
Independent of the issue of how these third party services – many of which are free to use – are monetizing their business, one question raised by this ecosystem is how retailers and brands can really differentiate their business by using these off-the-shelf services. In some cases, like the Old Spice blitz on YouTube last month, a swing for the fence can actually knock the ball out of the park. However, it’s not clear whether that promotion had any impact on sales at all, though it was surely the most entertaining campaign in recent memory – with the traffic to prove it – to many industry observers.
When the creative use of these services can be matched in hours if not minutes by a competitor (witness the Amazon vs. Wal Mart pricing battle of late spring where they engaged in a sort of negative auction to see which could lose more money on the sale of a book), we enter a world of advertising where engineering resources are needed to provide meaningful separation from what the competition can offer.
That state of affairs is not here yet, as marketers test the waters with a growing number – but still small – of early technology adopters from the consumer side. But brands and retailers will be well-served by identifying proprietary technology solutions which give them a leg up on the competition as they use these interesting services more and more.
Best Buy announced today that it plans to implement Shopkick technology in about one quarter of its total stores by October 1, 2010. Shopkick, Inc. is a location-based software development company that allows retailers to reward customers with discounts, points and special offers for entering their stores, and also for walking to different departments within the store. This is a major development for Best Buy who have seen their stock price fall by 16% this year and are looking for a way to begin building greater traction among shoppers on tight budgets.
The first release of Best Buy’s Shopkick app will be available only to iPhones, with a Droid version due out later, in 257 of its total 1,010 locations. Clearly the success of this program will depend on customers’ willingness to participate in the “scavenger hunt” that Best Buy and Shopkick have devised, so the depth and breadth of the rewards and special offers should ultimately determine the outcome. Overall, very exciting new technology from Shopkick with virtually limitless potential for driving customer behavior and interaction!
In this video from SocialMediaExaminer.com, Richard Jalichandra discusses the different types of professional bloggers, the ways in which companies are starting to use social media and blogs for advertising, and the current state of the Blogosphere.