PAIN RELIEF: Multi-multi-multi-multichannel minefield

By Martin Newman | 26 Oct 2010

There seems to be this massive push to have loads of social media channels for the customer to get to us (eg. Facebook, Twitter) plus our traditional channels plus, plus, plus! I get that we need to manage multiple channels, but we’re a mid-sized retailer and I don’t want to dedicate resources to some channels that might only deliver 100 Facebook friends or 200 Twitter followers. I’m worried that by continuing to add new channels to keep up with all the social media wave we’ll dilute the brand too much and diminish our service levels. How do we grow our channel strategy to scale with our business, but still keep up with what the new breed of online shoppers wants?

There seems to be this massive push to have loads of social media channels for the customer to get to us (eg. Facebook, Twitter) plus our traditional channels plus, plus, plus! I get that we need to manage multiple channels, but we’re a mid-sized retailer and I don’t want to dedicate resources to some channels that might only deliver 100 Facebook friends or 200 Twitter followers. I’m worried that by continuing to add new channels to keep up with all the social media wave we’ll dilute the brand too much and diminish our service levels. How do we grow our channel strategy to scale with our business, but still keep up with what the new breed of online shoppers wants?

What a great question! And highly relevant in the current climate.
I think that rather than purely thinking of what social media channels or platforms to leverage, I think you need to first of all determine what social media is going to drive for your business. As that will directly correlate with the resource required to engage with customers and also the potential ROI.

Social media can help to drive and contribute to a number of strategies. But ultimately it should be integrated with your overall customer acquisition, conversion and retention strategy.

1. Customer acquisition:

You can now integrate various aspects of your website including the transactional element with Facebook. Using applications such as 10CMS, you can embed transactional aspects of your site with Facebook. And you can leverage basic links to social media such as the Facebook ‘like button’ in order to drive sales. So you can turn social media into a social commerce opportunity. This isn’t something that would require additional resource, but it will drive sales.

But you also need to strike a balance. If your Facebook page is too commercial, you might turn customers off. So, I’d aim to engage customers with content that positions you as an authority in your space and a user experience that reinforces your brand values whilst providing some ecommerce capability as an add on.

You can also leverage Twitter as a potential sales driver. Dell does a great job of doing this and is now generating over $5m per annum purely by engaging with customers on Twitter and using the channel to turn issues into opportunities and by hoovering up demand from the ‘disenfranchised.’

2. Conversion:

You can then look to leverage user generated content on your site to drive conversion, such as ratings and reviews or testimonials.
And Twitter can also be considered an opportunity to convert customers who might be swithering over buying your product or a competitor’s product.
Your Facebook page should also aim to drive customer conversion and be a key part of your ‘customer engagement’ activity. As for some customers, it will be their first experience of your brand.

3. Customer retention:

Although it can be a conversion driver, your Facebook page is first and foremost a  customer retention tool. An opportunity for you to get closer to your customers and drive a more ‘personal relationship’ with them.

In addition to being a potential sales driver, Twitter can be leveraged from a customer service perspective to respond to any specific brand or product related issues and in doing so, generate tremendous good will with your existing customers.

Of course the big question is resource. If I were you, I’d start small. I wouldn’t over promise. Initially I’d look to ‘surprise’ my customers and delight them by engaging with them through social media and by being there to help and support them when they least expect it. This will generate good ‘word of web’ (Word of mouth), and will have a viral impact.

So I’d try and leverage existing resource from customer service initially or from your marketing or store teams. Ideally people with good service but also good sales skills.

If this activity is driven by you in the first instance, you can choose when to proactively engage with customers when they discuss your brand or issues relating to your category on Twitter.
And you can create an engaging Facebook page and user experience that doesn’t necessarily drive a huge volume of direct communication from customers, but does generate more word of mouth.

All of this said, I’m always nervous about ‘a dipping my toes’ approach. I’m not a big fan of this, as it can often lead to not delivering on your promises and not providing an opimised customer experience. I’m in the ‘do it properly’ or don’t do it camp.

So make sure you’re in a position to scale up this part of your operation fairly quickly when it takes off, as it surely will.

Cheers,

Martin

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