Kristin Zhivago, the marketing mind behind Revenue Journal, just posted an excellent overview piece on the social commerce space. She asks our CMO, Sam Decker to fill in the blanks and answer some tough questions. As you’ll see in the excerpts below, he decided to bring his A-game!

Who else is doing what you’re doing?

There’s no one doing exactly what we’re doing, the way we’re doing it. There are “lighter” solutions for smaller retailers. But our real competitor is the belief a company can do what we do with internal IT resources. The only one I know doing this successfully is, but they’ve been at this strategy for 12 years. Many who started with in-house builds have switched to our hosted technology and service, which includes consulting, moderation, analytics, integration with partners, etc.

What trends do you see in this space, both in terms of what companies are doing and what they’re not doing? If they’re not doing this and they should be, why aren’t they?

Sam DeckerThe three hottest topics are social, mobile and multi-channel. And by hot, I mean most companies haven’t figured them out!

As it relates to social, most CMOs struggle with what to do first, how to measure results, and how to scale a program. Facebook and Twitter continue to get attention, but people seem to mistake them for strategies, not tools. I think we’re entering a phase where companies realize that having fans and followers doesn’t really mean much in terms of the P&L. There is a trend to make social more measurable and integrate social activities into the fabric of the marketing strategy and business (including customer service).

A recent study we conducted with the CMO Club found that 64% of CMOs plan to increase their social marketing budget. But here’s the kicker: in 2009, 72% of CMOs reported they had no measurement of revenue linked to social. But of that same audience, 95% of them expected to link up to 10% of the revenue to social marketing programs this year. That begs the question… how!?

I think this trend swings in our direction, for what we call social commerce. Simply put, it’s tying the social interactions closer to products and shopping, and using the content and data in many ways to increase the impact of multiple marketing programs. This strategy brings social into the center of marketing and the products you sell, rather than being a pet project for a couple of people in the PR team.

One of the things I like about your service is that it will enable companies to do a better job of answering customer questions. In my upcoming book (and this blog), I talk frequently about how making a sale always involves answering customer questions successfully. And I find that most companies do a very poor job of this – they don’t even know the questions that customers are really asking.

Have you ever had a question about a product before you buy? Yes. Do marketers do a great job of providing the content on a web site to answer those questions? Usually, no. I was in that position when I managed the consumer site. When you are busy and insulated, it’s difficult to create content that speaks in the customers’ language, and keep up with content and copy that addresses questions where they need it. So, Ask & Answer simply puts the questions and answers in the hands of the customers, right where they need the content – it gives consumers a way to ask a question, publicly, of a brand, where the brand or another consumer can answer it (and others can benefit from these answers).

Catch the rest of the conversation over at Revenue Journal.

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