Social Commerce Panel – Catalyst EU May 17, 2011

May 17, 2011

ChannelAdvisor ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

Today’s panel (you can read more bios here) features:

  • Peter Briffett – LivingSocial
  • Richard Wilson – B+Q – DIY (home and garden/tools)
  • Natalie Priums – Republic – fashion retailer
  • Stuart Mills – – medical aids

Link Walls, Director of Product Management, is moderating the session.

I’ll refer to them by their company names in this blog post.

Livingsocial – during the intro, mentioned the Amazon deal generated > 800k conversations and 40% of the sales were driven via ‘shares’.

Moderator: What’s working for you with social

  • B+Q – It used to be we would engage customers on our site – reviews, stories, blogging.  Contests around things like ‘why do you want a shed’. In 2011, we are now bringing that same kind of engagement and strategy outside of B+Q – facebook, twitter and youtube. In terms of what works, we did a lot of tracking at first and understood that twitter was more customer service.  It’s important to use all three – email, site and facebook vs. just specific to our FB fans.  They have a social hub on the site that helps with that.
  • Livingsocial – We focus on the quality of the deals.  Content has to be strong to generate buzz and new customers.
  • Republic – Last year was the first time we took social seriously.  We had an external agency helping to grow Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.  We then started working on how to split the audience up and understand the audience.  Twitter was more industry insiders.  Facebook was more customer-facing – largely Female 25-35.  We had to work on who updates the content and who handles customer service issues on these channels.
  • Physio – Ran a FB ad campaign that didn’t do well.  FB used to be sales targeted and now it’s more marketing.
  • B+Q (adding on) – They had a FB ad campaign that did well – highly targeted and the retention was super-strong as well as the value of that customer over time.

Moderator: How do you attract fans/followers?

  • Livingsocial – We advertise heavily on FB and google, etc.  There’s a low barrier to entry, it’s the cost to scale that’s big for us.
  • Physio – They leverage radio to bring fans/followers.  How-to guides on youtube bring customers to FB as well.
  • B+Q – retweeting has been very successful for driving new followers.
  • Republic – They leverage the like button across the site and newsletters as well as on-site.  Lots of different content around chinos and things like that to drive conversation. Once we reach 500 likes, we’ll release a coupon code to drive viral signup.

Moderator – it seems that you all go ot your core DNA when using social media, that’s a good best practice.

Moderator: Do you leverage discounting for social media?

  • B+Q – It’s not what we really use the channel for, we seed some deals, but try and concentrate around conversations – people talking about DYI and projects.  Youtube is about how-to projects -how do we take our customers from Fear to Fearless?  Coupons are a necessary evil in this market and does drive uptake.
  • LS – We’re trying to drive excitement and discount is one way to do that. We’re providing tools to merchants to understand this data.

Moderator: How do you keep one disgruntled customer from ruining the whole party?

  • LS – We use twitter, phone and things and you have to just respond quickly.
  • B+Q – It becomes a customer service function, we have to put our brand voice in there and everyone can see them.  Sometimes we try and get them to call if it’s a delicate/complex situation.
  • Physio – A big question is do you respond to direct messages or overall mentions?  We’ve gone direct to customers that have had bad experiences.
  • Republic – If it’s on twitter and not talking to us – we’ll address it to see if they want it resolved.  On FB, we don’t remove anything unless there’s policy violations. We try and turn it into a positive.  Sometimes we have community members that will defend us which has been great and is sometimes better than us saying it.

Question: Not one of you mentioned sales – how do we sell more?! Have you measured any sales from all this?

  • Republic – We absolutely measure everything and look at revenue. FB is the main place that is generating revenue.  The social page on our site puts everything in one place.  People that go through that hub, the KPIs are double.
  • B+Q – Our tracking shows that people we’ve engaged through social media, convert higher and are better customers than normal visitors.
  • Physio – We wouldn’t take a resource away from a channel with a direct sales impact – eBay, Amazon, etc. We give social attention, but not at the expense of other channels.
  • B+Q – Make sure you have the scale right on your investment – If sales are important, maybe mobile vs. social.

Question: For Republic – do you have a FB shop?

  • We’ve experimented with some of them and it takes the website into a smaller space.  We’ve abandoned that for now, but looking for a smoother process.  It shouldn’t be a replication of the site.
  • We try and keep the brand elements in there.  FB people come to the site normally, don’t try and force it.
  • Physio – added one that didn’t do well.
  • B+Q – it’s easy to replicate email/ecomm on fb/twitter but customers aren’t looking for that.

Moderator: Where does social live in your org – marketing, customer service, sales, ?

  • Physio – In our business, it’s moved from direct sales to marketing, but with a customer service element too.  I think it should sit across the business in a way.  For example our blog is written by all different departments.
  • B+Q – marketing owns it and shares any customer input with customer service – they look at direct impact as well as influence.
  • Republic -I’d like to see it in everyone’s job, not one specific person (talking myself out of a job!) – For our company we have designers, buyers, customer service and I think they should all be involved and be part of the conversation.
  • LS – It’s friends talking to friends, but it’s not standard marketing.  I think you need a social commerce department really optimised for this new media ultimately.


Moderator: Any parting words of wisdom?

  • LS – this is the cheapest form of customer acquisition and you should all look at it.
  • B+Q – Understand what your customers are already doing – get out there and listen and add value.
  • Republic – Find out where the customers are and how do you pick the right social channel – pick one, do that well, then add vs. blasting everywhere poorly.
  • Physio – It’s important, but not at the expense of other channels.  Make sure you get a return.

SeekingAlpha Disclosure – Many of these companies on this panel are our customers. I am long Amazon and Google. eBay is an investor in ChannelAdvisor.