BrainTrust LIVE: Does Your Social Media = Social Commerce?
The ShopperTech LEAD Marketing Conference in Chicago this week included an entire four-session track of panel discussions featuring RetailWire BrainTrust panelists and moderated by RetailWire CEO Al McClain.
While the LEAD conference covered practically every aspect of loyalty, engagement, analytics and digital marketing, the RetailWire BrainTrust LIVE panels tended to home in on the practical challenges of turning theory into increased sales. In particular, in the first two sessions, BrainTrust’ers Doug Stephens, James Tenser and Bob Phibbs discussed turning social media practices into social commerce. Additional guest panelists included: Millie Slamin, agency lead for social media, Defense Commissary Agency; Nick Harris, senior manager of consumer marketing, Benjamin Moore; Teresa Caro, vice president, strategy, rDialogue; Kat Kozitza, director of interactive & direct marketing, Supervalu; and Peter Leech, partner, The Partnering Group.
To say that opinions varied and that discussions were animated would be a severe understatement.
The ideas seemed to split into two fairly distinct camps. One held that engaging consumers in social media is a must for practically any business, and that using engagement to create “advocates” (consumers who ‘shout from the hilltops about your brand online’) is the key to building both online and in-store sales.
The other camp saw social media as a way to generate positive brand buzz and to generate “earned media” (media you don’t have to pay for). They also said it is a good place to learn what consumers are saying about your brand through research. But when it comes to turning buzz into “commerce”, according to this group, the potential pretty much begins and ends with offering online coupons and other forms of discounts.
In fact, a few panelists felt coupon aggregators such as Groupon or even Microsoft’s Bing are a big danger to profitability for many brands and, in particular, to local retailers. Some asserted that these offers attract deal-seekers only and that repeat business rates generated could be as low as three percent.
In the end, everyone felt social media and social marketing are now mainstream for most consumers, especially the all important “wallet-keepers” — women 30 – 50 years of age. The question is not “if?” but “how?” brands will incorporate these media into their marketing arsenal.
Discussion Questions: The use of social media in some form seems to be in most brand’s and retailer’s futures — but is social commerce a viable goal for most as well? If not, which categories or retailers in particular do you think should shy away from social commerce and why?