This blog post is guest-written by Jacob Salamon, Bazaarvoice’s European Marketing Manager. lieb_rebecca_2008

This is the final post in our three-part blog series with Rebecca Lieb, Econsultancy’s Vice President of North America. Econsultancy, the UK’s leading source of insight on digital marketing and e-commerce, has been a partner and resource to Bazaarvoice in the UK for over two years and is now launching its US office in New York City. Here, Rebecca shares her thoughts on research and e-commerce trends. Read the first post on growing the new US office and the second post on monetizing Twitter and social media.

Q: What are some of the smartest retailers doing right now to stave off effects of the economy?

A: First and foremost, they’re selling online. E-commerce is suffering as a channel along with the rest of the economy, but it’s not suffering to the extent that offline retail is. They’re getting smarter about search, both SEO and SEM, as well as vertical and local search, and many are having great success with online coupons, which have really taken off in tough times. They’re also building social media components into their efforts, both on-site and off. We’re talking customer reviews, of course, but also using tools like Twitter, blogs, photo-sharing and more to encourage users to do no small part of the online marketing lifting for them.

Q: What are some trends you’ve identified, specifically with regard to social commerce?  As customer reviews are now commonplace, what is Econsultancy’s view on the future of social commerce?

A: People are social by nature, and commerce is an everyday activity. Wikipedia defines social commerce as a type of e-commerce in which “active participation of customers and their personal relationships are at the forefront.” This is nothing new — commerce and social interaction have commingled since the days of the agora. Recommendations, reviews, lists, and other forms of sharing and participating in shopping and commerce are utterly inherent to human nature. Online tools enable extending these very natural impulses and proclivities into the realm of e-commerce. People have always gone shopping, at least in part, to be social.

Q: We advocate embracing customer conversations on your site – to drive social interactions within the purchase path.  How else do you see brands engaging in social initiatives to drive measurable sales?

A: Twitter is the channel most in the news these days. Dell recently attributed over $3 million in sales — $3 million! — to Twitter-generated sales. Certainly tech companies have jumped on that bandwagon, but so have United Airlines, which is offering Twitter-only deals, and Starbucks, which is giving away gift cards in the channel.

I’m also seeing companies use Facebook to generate contests and user-generated content, not to mention bases of fans and loyal supporters. Certainly this drives sales and affinity at least indirectly.

PR is another important tool in social channels. Grasshopper recently sent 5,000 chocolate-covered grasshoppers to influential bloggers, generating mountains of social media coverage. Automotive companies are doing the same, offering loaner vehicles to influentials in exchange for coverage. These initiatives, when properly executed, can generate sales, if not at least consideration — and have the potential of going really viral.

Really, ways to increase sales in social channels are limited only by imagination and proper execution — neither of which is to be taken lightly. This stuff can be hard. But the rewards can make the effort worthwhile, as can the minimal impact on marketing budgets.

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