Another Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, and yet again, they’ve illuminated realities and debunked previously held truths for marketers everywhere. IBM’s report on the digital behaviors demonstrated during the firesale weekend essentially boiled down to this one finding: None - that’s right, not one - of the ### ecommerce purchases completed on Black Friday, which, by the way, represents a 21% increase from last year, can be directly attributed to Twitter.
Now... that doesn’t mean that none of the purchases completed can be in some hockey-stick indirect fashion attributed to brands’ and agencies’ promotions using the social media giant. It does mean, however, that the perceived effectiveness of social media as a tool for driving ecommerce may be overblown.
A study recently put out by Forrester Report, in which 77,000 transactions were examined during two weeks in April ‘12, found that less than 1% of purchases made could be directly attributed to any social media channel.
Why, then, do marketers on the brand side and agency side alike place such importance on social media promotion? The answer lies somewhere in a perfect storm of hype, misunderstood (relatively) young technology, and disproportionate perceived value.
The question that begs asking, then, is ‘how do we fix the problem?’
For us, the answer always lies in behavior. The past can always be used, if interpreted correctly, to inform, if not predict, the future. In the past, the biggest drivers for ecommerce have been search engines. They’re responsible for 39% of new traffic and sales, and Forrester nailed it when they labeled these guys ‘spearfishers.’ Search engine shoppers are looking for specifics. They know what they want and now all they need to find is the best deal. No wonder then, that Twitter has little or no effect. A search engine provides an aggregated view of all the price points for the exact product a consumer desires.
Next in line is email - the number one tool for repeat customers. If a consumer has previously purchased something from a company, and signed up to receive offers (or, more likely, not unchecked the checked box that unwillingly and un-knowingly signs them up to receive updates on deals and offers), those mailers will influence one third of their next purchase decision. And unless you are drowning in email on a regular basis (like us), that message can sit passively in your inbox until you are ready to act (either by clicking or deleting), rather than flying past you at the speed of, dare we say, a Twitter feed?
As marketers, we look at social media as a great tool to get the message out to an audience that has asked for it. But we need to learn to encourage ‘social shopping’ to really take advantage of the avenues to the consumer social media have allowed us. Encouraging and even incentivizing consumers to share their purchase at checkout might be a more useful way to spread the word about a promotion then simply Tweeting about it from a brand account. After all, consumers trust each other more than they’ll ever trust us.
Secondly, we need to learn to use the tools we have at hand. Micro-targeting, using finely honed consumer segmentation, is an essential. Tweets should be fired with a scope, not a shotgun.
Lastly, allowing consumers to shop visually, by utilizing galleries, Pinterest and/or Instagram to stimulate the eyes and encourage that spontaneous purchase, is an avenue that is still novel, and therefore still interesting, to the consumer. Everyone’s offering percentages off or free shipping. Doing something different, like using visual cues, is likely to garner more conversions.
More than anything, we need to take a step back and realize that we have the tools to succeed. Behaviors exist. Trends are waiting to be realized. The avenues to reach the consumer are in place. We simply need to figure out exactly what works, how to be most effective. At the end of the day, our job as marketers is to make a person think they’re being social when really they’re being consumers.
Maybe by next Black Friday, we’ll have figured out exactly how.