The days of one-way brand advertising are long over, replaced by the conversational dynamics brought about by social media. Today, at best, brands can hope that by delivering high quality, great value and excellent service, consumers will respond not merely by continuing to buy, but also by vocally advocating for the brand, becoming a sort of “social proof” that future customers can trust for guidance.
The practice of social listening has exploded in popularity over the past decade, and for good reason – when brands actively follow the conversations people spark around them, they can get ahead of any potential problems, identify their most vocal advocates, meaningfully participate in – and add value to – real-time dialog that’s relevant to the brand, and offer appreciation and a sort of validation to the people who’ve made the decision to include their products or services in their lives. Companies invest considerable resources into managing and rewarding their various communities across social media, and it creates a cycle of good – positive customer experiences result in positive commentary around the brand, which triggers the brand to reward consumers whose positivity creates a positive halo and convinces new consumers to join the fray, which results in more purchases and more positive customer experiences, and on it goes.
That is, with one noticeable exception.
Ask most brand managers to define their community management strategy on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and even Tiktok, and you’ll get a well-thought-out response. Yet if you ask those same brand managers how they maximize their social community in ecommerce, you’ll soon find out that – for the most part – they don’t even view ecommerce as a social platform!
Ecommerce platforms are the ultimate embodiment of social proof having the ability to push the needle. When satisfied customers share their experiences within the very platforms where other customers are deciding what they should purchase, their authentic positive commentary exponentially impacts those purchase decisions. A new paying customer is infinitely more valuable than a “like” on any other social channel.
So, you’d think that brands would do everything in their power to ensure that anywhere their products are sold online, they’d manage every facet of the experience like their lives depended on it. And you’d expect that anywhere there’s an opportunity for customers to ask questions, provide ratings or leave reviews, the brand would monitor all happenings like a hawk, be omnipresent in providing clarity and confidence, meaningfully engage the community and its influencers, and take every opportunity to add value.
Most brands treat their ecommerce communities as an afterthought. They share generic product photos and descriptions, don’t bother freshening up the experience throughout the year to capitalize on cultural moments large or small, ignore all the widely-accepted rules of smart merchandising and shopper marketing, provide non-conversational responses to customer questions, ignore opportunities to identify and engage with real brand influencers who have – unprompted – gone out of their way to share love for others to see, and otherwise leave what could and should be a vibrant community untended and untapped.
It makes no sense at all. Ecommerce is the one place where brands can capitalize immediately on the power of social validation to drive sales.
Prioritizing the power of community – and implementing a well-thought-out ecommerce community management plan – will result in higher rates of conversion, lower cost per acquisition, higher brand sentiment, and greater profitability. It also has the added benefit of providing brands incredible insights into customer perceptions around a range of important topics, which helps with everything from pricing to product development to campaigns and promotions.
Perhaps brands have neglected their ecommerce communities because of the perceived lack of scale. Whereas a brand may have 2 million followers on Instagram, they may only have 40,000 reviews on Amazon. But those 40,000 reviews come directly from paying customers, within the context of their genuine experience with the product, on a platform the rest of us lean on heavily to decide whether we should buy that product. And nothing is more important than the experiences of those 40,000 reviewers!
Perhaps brands have neglected their ecommerce communities because they perceive these platforms as little more than a digital storefront, a place where they simply show off their wares so somebody searching for that type of product will find it and buy. Of course, ecommerce bares very little resemblance to brick-and-mortar storefronts. For one thing, brands can’t have tens of thousands of their most satisfied customers hanging out at a store, professing their love for the brand’s products to future customers. Most brands have infinitely more flexibility to constantly refresh their ecommerce footprint as well to stay timely and fresh and in-tune with the cultural currents.
Whatever the reason, most brands simply get ecommerce wrong, and through a simple recalibration of priorities, they stand to benefit immensely by giving ecommerce the attention it deserves.
At Mastermind, we’ve developed a methodology that ensures maximum value for clients across their ecommerce ecosystem.
So many companies continue to spend considerable resources on in-store experiences, but in 2021, e-commerce IS the new “in-store”, and here at Mastermind we are on a mission to empower smart brands to refocus their efforts where they matter most.
Now that you know the truth, what are you waiting for? Let’s recalibrate!