Thursday, January 10, 2008

Downright Fascinating Social Media and Web Commerce Trends

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee wrote a great article on Web trends in the November 26, 2007 issue of InformationWeek. There is so much going on in this market.. the mind reels. Here’s a taste from the lead:

“The old days of companies tightly controlling a marketing message are gone…The interactive forces of the Internet - including social networking sites, online discussion boards, and blogs - are arming consumers with tools that can quickly and exponentially spread the word to other would-be customers if a product stinks or a company blunders... Companies such as Charles Schwab and OnStar are creating Internet platforms to literally read the minds of consumers, seeking out insights that directly drive their new product strategies.” [my emphasis]

This reminded me of AdWords, of course. AdWords is great for driving business or clicks to your site via general advertising techniques. However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that AdWords is a great tool for testing promos, floating new ideas, and reading the minds of consumers. And it’s cheap!.. given the right niched-out keywords.

The article details various ways companies like FedEx, eBay, Schwab and others are using the social connectivity of Web 2.0 (I hate saying Web 2.0, but I did, shame) to their advantage. FedEx’s CIO Rob Carter says, (paraphrased from the article) “The explosive growth of this connectivity has been ‘completely underestimated’ in how it will affect society and markets.” I concur.

The article also talks about some fascinating new trends, like having your Second Life avatar or character purchase things for you or book reservations for you online. I know, that sounds crazy. But think about it. Why the heck not? If you build the right character, with all your tastes, desires, wish lists and so forth, why not set him free on a shopping spree? I’ve never played Second Life, but I assume there are vendors in there, like Amazon.com. (If you know how this works, please comment below and enlighten us.) FedEx’s Carter comments in the article, “Second Life has enough momentum to make us wonder: What if this identity I’ve built could spill over into my daily life and get things done for me?” Your avatar would be like an information robot – tuned to all your preferences and guided by “business rules” that determine decisions.

Carter extends the concepts further, saying, “The greatest opportunities lie in socially networking corporations together – horizontally, across business processes, which don’t necessarily live within your four walls anymore.” Great example = Gaming like Second Life supporting commerce like FedEx and Amazon.com.

The article describes how some companies like OnStar use Nielsen BuzzMetrics to analyze how they’re performing in “consumer-generated media.” This is another hot topic, worthy of another post, probably.

There’s a cool story about Dell’s celebrity advertising campaigns, too. I’ll blog more on that later, too.

In the mean time, read the article. It’s a mind bender.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Product Reviews, Social Media and New Online Buying Trends

The following comes from the Online Marketer Blog:

“Not only are 1 in 4 internet users consulting reviews before purchasing offline, but they are willing to pay more if the service is ranked as excellent. It seem that after the year of exuberance that was all about Facebook and twitter, business is finally getting around to answering the question of how social media effects ROI.

“..Users that [sic] sort the list of products by customer ratings spend 41% more than users who search with other methods like popularity or price… Emails that feature customer review content receive 50% higher clickthrough rates.”

Here’s the main article, titled Good For Consumers (And Businesses): Social Media Gets A Glimpse Of Measurable ROI.

So.. for online marketers, it’s now more critical than ever to be building review/social functions into your Web sites and product pages. Customer service performance counts bigtime, too, of course.

And, as consumers, we have to make sure we maintain clear, critical thinking when checking product reviews. I’d like to see some some numbers about the veracity and integrity of online reviews. How much of it is “bro” reviews? How much of it is genuine? Are really nasty reviews the result of competitor campaigns? That would be interesting, yet difficult to quantify.

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