This series of blogs summarizes key takeaways from some of the presentations and panel discussions offered at the 2009 Social Commerce Summit.

This post recaps my session from the 2009 Social Commerce Summit, “Maximizing Impact from the Four Phases of Social Commerce.”

It was Christmas 2004, and the “it”-toy of the year for my four-year-old son Kyle was a volcano racetrack playset.

The playset was nearly impossible to assemble. My father, Bert, went online to look for feedback from fellow purchasers, and found that the toy had a 1.5-star rating on the retailer’s website with very critical reviews. Bert wrote a similarly critical product review detailing our experience with assembly.

That’s when my family decided never to buy a product again without first researching customer reviews.

“Just say the word”

Reviewers want to enhance others’ experiences by sharing their own. These days, social networking technology amplifies the voice – and impact – of anyone with an opinion.

Successful social commerce follows a maturity cycle that repeats itself over and over again. Each phase offers unique opportunities for businesses to get ahead.

Phase 1: Find influencers

In a marketplace where everyone wields influencer potential, companies must dramatically change the way they market their brands. Forward-thinking businesses actively court customer opinions, knowing that the most effective quality assurance comes from the people ultimately using the products.

The best way to attract influencers is to offer multiple channels that empower them to make their voice heard. Bazaarvoice found a 29% overlap in customers utilizing Ask & Answer and Ratings & Reviews. This demonstrates the opportunity to tap into reviewers for answers, but also illustrates the opportunity to unearth new contributors with different channels.

Phase 2: Get contribution

Once you’ve provided a forum for customers to raise their hands, the next step is to encourage customers to contribute.

There are various ways to accomplish this goal. Bazaarvoice client Canadian Tire asked their customers for product usage tips. Bath and Body Works solicited reviews and Q&A feedback via email, on in-store receipts, and upon completion of online purchases.

Action chains are an important part of maximizing influencers’ voices. If a customer submits a review for a product, he or she is already engaged with the brand and is open to further contribution. Why not direct them to contribute again?

Thank you pages for review submission are a great way to link reviews to questions and answers. Bazaarvoice clients have found that their thank you pages linking to open questions about the reviewed product drive answer volume by 139 percent, making these pages a huge opportunity increase influencers’ impact.

Phase 3: Get more from contribution

User-generated content isn’t just useful for driving Web traffic and e-commerce. Utilize your customer’s input on all types of advertising, from in-store ads and kiosks to email promotions and mobile devices. Razorgator’s “101 Reasons to Buy Your Tickets from Razorgator” is aggregated entirely from their customers’ opinions.

In addition, user-generated content can help improve an organization on every level. Customer feedback offers an outsider’s perspective on your company’s sales, customer service, and marketing techniques. Companies have returned to the drawing board based on negative user feedback, notifying dissatisfied customers how their input helped improve the original product. This step improves customer trust, and proclaims the company’s dedication to excellence.

Phase 4: Get more from influencers

The final phase of the social commerce cycle presents brands with questions that direct them back to phase 1. How can you bring your offline reviewers online? How can you engage them in new and creative ways?

The online retailer continued to carry the faulty and highly criticized volcano racetrack playset for a year after our bad experience. Neither the manufacturer nor the retailer ever responded to Bert’s toy review. As a result, my father didn’t write another online review for four years. The retailer and manufacturer’s neglect of the customer voice lost them an influencer and an opportunity.

Learn from our story. Use your customers’ input to maximize your impact.Social Commerce Summit: Opening Remarks

2 Responses to “2009 Summit Cliffnotes #4: Maximizing Impact from the Four Phases of Social Commerce”

  1. I have one client (@namecheap) who I ask customers for reviews for all the time.

    The one thing I mention quite a lot in the copy I write asking for feedback is, “When you offer feedback and reviews for us on the web, it helps us keep our level of service high and our expenses low. This means we can pass this savings on to you.”

    I point blank spell it out and it usually works. The best part is, the customer knows you are looking out for them instead of trying to exploit them, so it promotes a better relationship all around.

  2. I have one client (@namecheap) who I ask customers for reviews for all the time.

    The one thing I mention quite a lot in the copy I write asking for feedback is, “When you offer feedback and reviews for us on the web, it helps us keep our level of service high and our expenses low. This means we can pass this savings on to you.”

    I point blank spell it out and it usually works. The best part is, the customer knows you are looking out for them instead of trying to exploit them, so it promotes a better relationship all around.

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