Archive for the ‘ecommerce’ Category

“Haul Videos” Turn Another Private Moment into Marketing

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Although the term “Social Media” seems due for its trip down the hype curve into the dustbin of once-powerful historic buzz words such as ”Information Superhighway” and “Web 2.0,” the concept continues to gain traction because it really does represent a change in how people live their lives. When people can take private or small-group moments and share them with the world with a push of a mouse button or swipe of an iPhone, things can get more and more interesting. Small things that happen every day suddenly can turn into legitimate media movements. Such is the case of “haul videos,” which are turning shopping and sharing among girlfriends into the latest must-have for beauty and fashion marketers.

Haul videos have become the new trend for sharing among trendsetters and watchers. They represent the act of shopping at a store, then videotaping yourself showing off your purchases on camera, and then uploading it to YouTube for sharing. As seen in the ABC News video above, there are more than 100,000 individual haul videos on YouTube already, which have received millions of views. Some individual videos have been viewed as many as 700,000 times, while others are starting out with just two viewers (great quote: “…my mom begged me to do one!”).

The act of sharing your fashion purchases with other people is not new. Girls have been doing this for years—inviting friends over to their homes and showing off their latest buys from the mall. The difference now is that technology is allowing people to share with the world. Just as blogging turned diaries from private to public and Flickr allowed people to share their photos with the world, now cheap video cameras and YouTube are turning this once private activity into public, “social media.” Let’s also skip the concern that Gen Y is over-sharing or becoming too materialistic. These kids grew up regulating their privacy (with parents’ help) and are just doing what they’ve always done.

Once this private act goes public, some pretty interesting changes can happen. Some girls are able gather a large audience and can quickly impact product sales. Viewers see them as honest and “real,” and thus trust what they are sharing and saying much more than any advertisement. Advertisers become interested whenever they see a large, trusted audience and will continually look to earn a positive review. In fashion specifically, word of mouth has a very large impact on product popularity and sales, and these videos are a major catalyst for word of mouth. And not only do thousands of girls closely follow specific video producers, but search engines such as Google and Bing send additional traffic when the videos are posted.

This is an important point that signals a deeper change in how social media is impacting the marketing world. Instead of buying ad placements that are trusted less and less, advertisers are increasingly providing free samples to top bloggers and video creators. Advertisers must trust that their products will be liked by the reviewers, who in turn will talk about these products in their own words. If reviewers accept money or are perceived to be biased, then they risk losing the trust of their audience. This is much more meaningful than the typical model of buying glossy print ads or paying celebrities millions of dollars to promote your products.

This is also part of a larger trend toward social-media shopping. People are increasingly using technology such as Facebook and mobile phones to virtually take their friends along with them when shopping—both for assistance and fun. For example, they are using a location-based app called foursquare to tell their friends where they are browsing, and they are scanning UPCs to find product reviews on their mobile phones. At Bridge Worldwide, we created a tool for Pearle Vision that allows people to upload photos of themselves in various pairs of glasses so that they can get quick feedback from their friends before making a purchase.

So the question for you is: What can you do to make shopping for your products or services a more social experience? Social shopping isn’t going away anytime soon.

Shopping: The Next Killer Social Media App

Friday, May 1st, 2009

If your brand or your client sells anything using the Internet, you need to put down the BlackBerry and start working on a recommendation to build social media tools into the purchase process. I can’t overwhelm you with case studies and ROI models yet, but the forces of e-commerce and human habits are combining to make digital/social shopping a killer app. Act now before your competitor steals the spotlight and market shares.

Let me break down why this gets me excited enough to push a recommendation at you: First, people love to shop together. Many female friends, couples, and even a few bromances get together regularly to hit the stores to find deals and get second opinions together in the physical world. Second, more and more shopping is done online, but people lose the chance to have fun and get help from friends in this way. But digital social media tools are bringing friends together virtually, and people are using them to keep in touch with more people more often. Digital + Social Shopping (needing a better buzz word, btw) puts it all together. And when marketers get into the act of encouraging these meaningful connections, they have a high chance of closing the sale.

I’ve heard this trend called “social commerce,” a blend of social media and e-commerce, but so far this phrase has been used mainly by companies such as Bazaarvoice that enable product reviews. What I’m talking about is deeper than just getting help from people; it’s specifically around enrolling your trusted friends in the live-ish shopping process itself.

Case studies: Of course, you need case studies to buy into this new world of buying. Check out these three:

Sears Prom Dresses + Facebook

I would argue that a very modest Facebook application for Sears last March was the best marketing use of this social networking service yet. The idea was pretty simple: Allow girls on Sears.com to share pictures of their favorite prom dresses out of 70 available on the site, and ask for feedback from their friends on Facebook. The beauty of this application is that it put the social network to work for the customer, creating a fun conversation and getting real help to a girl in need of a second, third, or 10th opinion. For Sears, this tool provided a meaningful way to attract customers to its stores, and it benefitted from the viral aspect of a girl virtually bringing several friends into the shopping process.

Vans Sneakers

Three Minds on Digital at Organic alerted me to a great example at Vans.com. The site is a custom shoe creation tool that includes a very simple option to email or SMS a photo of your proposed shoe with a short message to friends. For something “artsy” such as self-designed Vans shoes, a quick peek from a buddy can really help make sure your fashion statement doesn’t produce laughter.

Bob Gilbreath’s New Shoes

Yep, that’s me, your friendly blog writer, with a case study that’s actually an example how people will use these tools whether marketers are involved or not. Two weeks ago I was looking for some shoes to go with some new agency-wear summer shirts from Lucky Jeans that I bought online. In the office I was walking by three female friends in our Client Service organization who I know have good eyes for fashion. I was wearing one of my new shirts and stopped to ask for shoe advice. Within an hour Amanda emailed me four choices from Piperlime.com, with some comments. She cc’ed Andi and Tiffany, who added some comments on their preferences. That evening I took a look and clicked to buy a nice pair of brown Steve Madden shoes. Of course I had to upload a photo to my Facebook account (above) and share with my fashion outfitters, as well as the rest of my friend network. I’m now looking a little sharper, and everyone who was involved in the process had fun.

If fashion victims like me are going to use digital/social tools for shopping anyway, why isn’t your brand part of the solution? There is absolutely no reason for any e-commerce provider to ignore this opportunity to build social shopping and sharing into their existing e-stores. Tools such as ShareThis already make it easy, and if a customer is wavering, this could be an easy way to prevent shopping carts from being left idle. Meanwhile, the chance to essentially place a free ad in front of trusted friends is simply wonderful.

What’s next is that these digital social networks will come into the store, thanks to better smart phones and mobile access. Take a quick picture of yourself in the dressing-room mirror and upload it to a handful of trusted consultants or even millions of strangers. Smart stores will find ways to make this more fun and useful.

So, e-marketers, please embrace social media to aid the shopping process. We customers need the help, and you surely could use the extra sales.

Eye Tracking Shows the Ugly Truth

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

On Tuesday I wrote about my trip to the WPP Digital Stream conference in early October. One of the most interesting discussions came from an agency and client that will remain nameless. The subject of their discussion was eye tracking software, and how it showed them exactly how little their target consumers looked at the special offers that were presented on the home page of the site. It’s a great reminder of just how difficult it is to get meaningful marketing right.

For those who have not been exposed to the technology, eye tracking is a system that allows you to track what people look at when they come to a website. A special monitor tracks the movement of the research subject’s pupil, and software records the results. Two of the most popular outcomes are a “heat map” style report, like that shown above, and an “order of viewing” report that shows where people looked from first to last. The machines are expensive, but are coming down in price and rising in importance.

The subject of the discussion at Stream was that of a financial services company that had trouble getting its online customers to click on offers for additional services. The agency had just refreshed the home page by making the ad/offer space more prominent. And it created a system that would serve relevant ads to individual customers. For example, a person with a high credit card balance would see an offer for an outstanding interest rate.

Seems smart, right? Even meaningful, perhaps? Unfortunately, the results were horrible. It seemed like customers were not even seeing the great offer staring them in the face in the center of the page. Well, they were right. By using the eye tracking system, they found that people were completely ignoring the offer on the page. Ironically, the screen shot they shared was similar to the above screen shot for Virgin stores, which I found at the SEOmoz blog.

In our discussion, we worked to unearth the problem. As we saw it, the issues were twofold: First, people have learned to simply ignore online advertising. There is so much of it that we have trained ourselves to block it out completely. Second, when people are online, they are often on a mission. At a financial services site, they want to log into their account and get down to business. So no matter how well targeted the ad is, it’s only really relevant if the person is actively looking for a new credit card at the time. This is the reason why Facebook ads don’t work, but Google has created a multibillion-dollar AdWords product.

The solution is tougher to come by. In this case, I think the main answer is for the company to work harder to build a great “shopping center” for credit cards and other financial services. The magic really lies in getting someone who is ready to buy, and offering a brilliant experience. Another solution could be for the company to create a special “smart offer” section on the customer’s home page. Better wording and an explicit comment that the offer is “just for you” or “based on your account history” might have a chance of cutting through people’s expectation that anything in a box is an irrelvant ad.

Nothing is easy in the move from interruption to meaning, and from traditional to digital. But information like eye tracking results helps us get down to the real results, and helps us try the 100th option, which might actually work.

UPDATE: I should have linked to Jakob Nielsen’s post on banner blindness.  It’s super.