Study: The importance of cross-channel sales

Most companies wonder how the purchase funnel looks like when consumers evaluate products they think about buying. A recent study from ATG helps: 30% of consumers reach out to more than three commerce channels to research a product and make a purchase. This shows that retailers and merchants need a broader cross-channel approach to boost sales and enhance customer purchase decisions.

The consumer study found that more than three-quarters of consumers use two or more channels and nearly one-third work with even three or more channels to research and purchase products. While we have all expect that mobile use and social media find their way into consumers’ online commerce activities, it is surprising that traditional catalog channels are still popular.

“Merchants have heard the call for a stronger cross-channel strategy for many years, but what has been lacking is a deeper explanation about why this is so important. We are seeing a multi-channel revolution now, with a vast majority of consumers using multiple channels and now almost one-third actually relying on three or more channels to complete transactions. Retailers must direct their energy toward fulfilling the unique role and sales potential of each channel. This research illuminates the expectations consumers have for the Web, call centers, the store, catalogs, and email.”
Nina McIntyre, Senior Vice President Marketing and CMO, ATG

The key findings of consumers’ cross channel experiences…

– 78% use two or more channels to browse, research and make purchases; 30% said they use three channels or more

– 78% of all consumers say they use catalogs to browse and research products or services at least four times a year BUT 40% of those consumers never purchase products or services through catalogs.

– 43% start their research online or with mobile devices. BUT They need to call customer service or call center representative to complete the transaction because the product or service information cannot be found online!

– 39% browse via the online or mobile channel and then make purchases in the store because they prefer to touch and feel the product – reason for 36% is product and brand comparison

Interesting findings on mobile commerce (emphasis on the 18-34 age)…

– 27% of all consumers 18 and older use their mobile devices to browse or research products and services at least four times a year, and that number jumps to 41% for the 18-34 year-old age group

– 13% of all consumers 18 and older and 23% of the 18-34 age purchasing at least four times a year via their mobile devices; 8% of the later are doing it weekly

Spot on!
The study highlights how important it is to link online and offline sales communication and give the customers the same purchase service in multiple channels. It will always be difficult to understand where customers make their final purchase decision and where they finally buy though. This additional study by Google underlines the trend for an offline and online purchase decision mix. One things is for sure again: The need for more awareness around the incorporation of commerce activities in social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter is gaining momentum.

News Update – Best of the Day

The paradigm shift friom nubers to relevance become more and more important – and the user’s social lifecycle puts tables upside down in business – by Mahendra Palsule. When I talked about the importance of relevance some years ago, people laughed and said, this is never going to happen as numbers are key for business… Ah, yes…!

Social networking sites are popular with eight to 12-year-olds. 25% of underage children have profiles on social networking sites, according to research by media regulator Ofcom.

Come on you social media gurus! Let’s all have a laugh… Shall we?

eblizz – the next social shopping extension

In the last four weeks, some of the users of The Strategy Web might have seen a small icon on the right hand side of my blog called ‘SocialSpace’. You might have wondered what it is. Or how to use it. Here comes the answer. Now, that the team around the eblizz founders, Jeanette Okwu and Martin Wawrusch, has completed the integration of the social software tool, I will introduce you to a technology that I would call the next social shopping extension for future business.

Social networks are on an all-time high. Corporate websites and shops loose out on traffic and referential linking as people start talking, connecting and linking via social networks like Facebook, Twitter or other social networks. SEO doesn’t work here as closed front doors don’t allow access for SEO tactics. And with the massive rise of social networks, especially Facebook, the question comes up how to bridge the lack of a connection between social networks and homepages or shops.

eblizz offers this solution. It brings social networks and brands together. In a way that social Networks become an integral part of brand websites – be it homepages, shops or blogs. For now, eblizz starts with Facebook – but Martin told me, other networks will follow.

With eblizz users can interact with their social networks without leaving branded sites. Content can be shared with friends on Facebook. Users can immediately comment from the website they are on. Or store products visually in ‘The Shoebox’ and keep it for later purpose or use. Content can be, or as eblizz calls it, has to be ‘liberated’

What is the benefit of eblizz?
Business perspective Think about it. Prosumers create masses of content on the social web. Consuming that content, prosumers realize that brands become more and more exchangable. This causes problems for companies. They need to increase efforts to make their brand get heard. So ideally, companies make use of recommendation marketing to use the buzz of their brand fans.

User perspective Consumers often find things like nice products in online-shops. Or great music. Or funny videos. Or great pictures. And they want to recommend this to friends they are connected with on social networks. Today, it is impossible to take your friends from homepage to homepage, and easily share that content via a social network with one click.

Imagine your Facebook friends follow you from website to website. And, when you want to recommend something to them, you don’t have to change browser windows. You don’t have to cut-and-paste content. You just drag and drop it to the relevant person. Watch the short explanation and tell me if this isn’t really cool…

Companies pay a fee to get their websites eblizzed – no matter if it is a shop, a homepage or a blog. Their sites will be defragmented like a cake. This makes it easy for prosumers to share and recommend relevant pieces of content of a website: videos, links, pictures, etc.

Once a site is eblizzed, users find a button called SocialSpace – the button I started talking about at the beginning. The user logs in with on the question-marked face with their social network account. The SocialSpace opens up in a small picture on the website they are on. The users see their profile, the friends and updates immediately. They can also search for friends. And, they can immediately interact with their social network friends.

Users can even ‘bookmark’ interesting content in their Shoe-Box. The Shoe-Box is a place for personal content belongings. Here the users keep very special things in their SocialSpace. Maybe to recomment or remember a product or present for a Christmas or birthday in the future.

eblizz offers a next generation website customer service. eblizz integrates social network interaction in companies websites. And eblizz will become the driver of social commerce efforts by enabling engagement and brand buzz.

“Prosumers” create masses of content on the internet, including blog posts, product reviews and ratings. Producing all that content, prosumers begin to blur the lines between brands, making them more interchangeable. Not good for individual brands. That’s why companies need to increase efforts to distinguish their brand from all the rest. One way is to capitalize on “recommendation marketing” — build the buzz created by their brand fans. eblizz can help.

And here is how it works…
Consumers often discover products that they love online. And great music, funny videos and awesome pictures. They want to recommend them to their social-network friends. Today, it is impossible to take social-network friends from homepage to homepage, and easily share that content via a social network with one click. This is a universal social web problem!

So, imagine your Facebook friends follow you from website to website. And, when you want to recommend something to them, you don’t have to change browser windows. You don’t have to cut-and-paste content. You just drag and drop it to the relevant person.

eblizz was created to make things easier for anyone who wants to recommend content, product and services to any or all of their social-network friends. Websites and blogs sign up to get “eblizzed”. The fee seems very reasonable. Once a site is eblizzed, a button appears on the site’s homepage called “SocialSpace.” When a user logs in with their social network account information, Facebook for example, the SocialSpace opens up into a small picture that displays the user’s Facebook profile, Facebook friends (and their pictures!) and updates that are happening on facebook right from the website the user is on. The user can then drag and drop anything from the website right onto the Facebook page of any or all of their Facebook friends.

The user can also ‘bookmark’ interesting content from the website by dragging into their “ShoeBox.” This content stays in the Shoe Box for the user’s later use, can be edited and also shared.

Spot On!
So for me, the reason for a website to get “eblizzed” is simple. eblizz integrates social network interaction for all the users who visit a website, making it easy for them to recommend and share the website’s content. That’s how eblizz helps companies distinguish their brands. What is your take on it? Maybe you want to test it with my eblizz SocialSpace button? Drag and drop me your best videos on advertisement, funny pictures, shopping tips or cool texts. Looking forward to it!

And sure, let me know what you think about eblizz…

The end of the future of advertising agencies?

An apocalytic vision of the advertising future? A prevision of advertising mistakes? Or just a gag of a digital event-organizer that wants to wake up the advertising industry? Or does the event need more attendees? Maybe it is just a simple commercial clip? Or is it even meant to be spread the viral way (well done then, it seems to work, right…)? A video clip that allows so many questions, is worth being mentioned.

This video commercial could also be just a short film to demonstrate the creativity of the co-production companies FITC, Saatchi & Saatchi Canada, Lunch, and Tool. For their next flash event in Toronto the FITC has started a remarkable commercial ad that will make the advertising agency world think… hopefully.

The spot introduces an advertising agency that does not exist but might have been the last agency on earth “mps+c worldwide”. And the story is told just after the last employees have left the agency. A nice idea, right?

Allow some remarks…
If I had had the idea, I had tried to set up a community website for this fictional agency (the creators did not… at least for now) and created a charity story or some alike fiction around it for all people working in the ad agency industry.

It could have been a nice approach. Especially for advertising people to get ideas out of the cultural advertising change trap. Agencies could have collaborated and networked. Agencies could have… But, do agencies really want that? Collaboration, communication, creativity in an open world?

I had tried to integrate social comments function to enable, engage and enter the conversation directly on the website. If you understand how the customers are moving along the web, then why not living the idea with the viral… (is the reason a lack of resources and community management for such a sustainable idea?)

The increasing trend on the web is described quite well and companies should be thinking about this customer change in web use: “Internet Viewing, Facebook Updating and Obsessive Blogging”.

The production companies of this video clip could done much, much more with such a nice idea. Oh yes… But the message sounds great. Should we say that agencies should really, really, really wake up? Oh yes… And I am asking myself what comes after the last advertising agency has gone? Oh yes… Produce another film? Why? Success is never final! (Winston Churchil)

The change we see is a cultural one with high social impact on the world we live in. And companies should start seeing the web from a business-strategic point of view and understand, find and align their web-strategy with it. Companies should stop producing TV ads or banners without any call-to-action. And starting Twitter streams like “clowns” is definitely not the right way to approach the future of customer communication…

The Last Advertising Agency On Earth from FITC on Vimeo.

News Update – Best of the Day

Using a web analytics tool is one of the essentials when businesses want to get some insights on their customers’ movement around their websites. The Cosmos blog shows 10 useful website analytics tools. And before you ask: The tool I am using is Statcounter.

If your company has a fan page profile on Facebook, there are also some tools to track stats and monitor the traffic. The All Facebook blog offers 4 ways to monitor Facebook page traffic.

Some years ago, we were used to listen to street sales people in pedestrian areas downtown telling us how to get our vegetables, fruit or onions get cut and done. Now, all this can be done by just using a viral. Watch this Slap Chop sales guy and don’t tell this is not persuasive…

Study: Comparison Twitter vs. Facebook

A recent study by Irbtrax, a SEO Internet Marketing firm, tries to determine which platform is the best fit for a particular business application or niche. So, the results of the study is not saying the one or the other is better, but the results give some good basic orientation for marketeers.

Category 1: Traffic ranking and user metrics
Traffic Ranking US and Global traffic ranking:
Facebook 2 – 7 day average daily time on site by users: 32.2 minutes
Twitter 12 – 7 day average daily time on site by users: 7.8 minutes
Facebook has the lead due to its sheer size, traffic volume, and time on site.

Category 2: Online destination for potential clients in the B2C market
Facebook offers more potential as of the option to include photos, detailed information, multiple outbound links, videos, and other business to consumer apps. The study states it is easier to build a larger network of followers in the shortest amount of time to help market a consumer product or service.

Category 3: Online destination for potential clients in the B2B market
The advantage is on Twitter as it provides more viral marketing flexibility while requiring less followers. Viral Marketing is a core business to business social media application for service recognition and other benefits. Popular industry related tweets are redistributed creating a domino effect even if you don’t have thousands of followers.

Category 4: market research benefits
Again Twitter shows more potential. Its search features can be efficiently used to monitor what people are saying about a company, service, product and competitors. Increasing or declining trends can be tracked effectively as well.

Category 5: internal viral marketing benefits
Facebook is top as it’s much easier to build a larger following. Plus, Facebook ‘wall’ feature is much more interactive than Twitter’s internal communication features.

Category 6: external viral marketing benefits
Twitter offers a greater external internet reach – no front door. Google’s ‘Real Time’ search feature often streams live tweets. A comparison of the number of tweets an independent article/release receives verse the number times they are shared by Facebook accounts appears to strongly favor Twitter.

Category 7: Use of each platform for direct internet communication
Facebook offers an instant message feature which allows you to communicate with other users globally.

Spot On!
The study concludes that in order to maximize your social media marketing results companies ideally create a presence on both. And I am happy that a study mentions this: Which platform a company engages first, or where to spend the most amount of available time or budget depends on your customers!!! Businesses should be checking their web-analytic metrics to apply the findings to your target group, and evaluate the potential and strengths of each platform.

Study: Twitter users not as social as they seem?

A new report by Barracuda Networks on the company’s newly launched security research portal unveils a truth that was already found in this Harvard study some months ago: Twitter users are not as social as they might seem.

Although Twitter is probably the fastest growing social network, most of its 50 million accounts seem to follow other users – instead of posting their own messages. In some way this sounds positive, as it shows that we are not living in a pure self-referential world.

The Barracuda study states that in December 2009 73% of Twitter accounts have tweeted fewer than 10 times. Only 21% of Twitter account holders are “true users” as Baracuda defines them. The “true user”, according to their definition, is someone who has at least 10 followers, follows at least 10 people and has tweeted at least 10 times. Now, we may argue differently about that, but it definitely shows a trend.

Paul Judge, author of the report and chief research officer at Barracuda, thinks that Twitter is becoming more of a news feed channel than a social network. That indicates that most Twitter users “came online to follow their favorite celebrities, not to interact with their buddies the way they would on Facebook or MySpace,” said Judge.

The follow-only trend might be part of the is part of Twitter’s “red carpet era” when celebrities pushed their microblogging account into the mainstream during the six-month research period of Barracuda.

From November 2008 to April 2009, some celebrities, like Ashton Kutcher, Oprah Winfrey and John Mayer, joined Twitter. In these days the micro-blogging service grew 21.2% in the month of April 2009 alone.

Spot On!
The question remains if Twitter will be able to get more of these followers activated to become “true users” and to start tweeting themselves. Or if security risks will keep users away from becoming the active Twitterati. In combination with news about sites like people have scared of users not to tell to much about their real-time privacy. In my eyes Twitter should be making the main benefit clear to their potential users and show some monetization strategy for companies and users. Why should someone use a platform that does not show a valid business reason?

News Update – Best of the Day

Today, we keep this links list as short as possible…

Adam Singer tells us how to architect a social web marketing and PR strategy.

Ellen Davis interviewed Julie Bornstein (Senior Vice President, Sephora) about the ROI of social media – an interesting case study of a successful retail brand.

The new Apple iPad commercial shows all the features of the product in 30 seconds and with it the future of “infotainment” – and why it is better than Kindle and the likes.

LinkedIn – The importance of using invitation texts

In the last months, all social business networkers on LinkedIn have shared the same experience. They have received different invitations from people all over the world with the following invitation text…

“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
– Surname Name”

Short, targeting, and easy to understand – for everybody all over the world. Hmmmm….?!

This raises some questions in my head on the importance of invitation texts. And I would appreciate your views and get some feedback of people who also use LinkedIn for social business networking.

Is it ok to use the standardized version of the invitation text by LinkedIn? We are all marketers and we know that personalization is key. So, isn’t it better to re-phrase the standardized text version and write a short PERSONAL message?

If somebody is not writing a personal message, is it a sign that this person wants me to respond to him/her, and ask WHY this person wants me in his/her business social network? Even think about the impact on playing a psychological game on hierarchy thinking. Or is it just the peek a boo effect? Or is it just a hunters and collectors business?

If somebody leaves the standardized personal message, the contacted person might think this is a TEST on his/her social networking capabilities. So, companies might check how serious job applicants take social networking, how quick potential employees respond, or how much somebody is engaged in social media in general. Or just to test if this person understands effective lead generation?

Spot On!
Should not LinkedIn change its service? The one who is contacted cannot see what the contacting person has ticked in the box in terms of the business relationship, he or she is referring to.

What is your view and experience on invitations by social networks – especially from a business perspective.

The funny truth about PR embargoes

Embargoes have become very popular in the PR industry with the rise of personal blog publishing. This video made me laugh as it shows the funny side-effects of embargoes…