Social commerce frontier is wide open (Day 1 recap of #RSC10)

by Christine Tran

Social commerce in its infancy, with most companies using social for the sake of social.

Yesterday, we kicked off the first day of our two-day event, Rise of Social Commerce. In the first session (video clip here), our partner Lora Cecere defined social commerce as the use of social technologies to connect, listen, understand, and engage to improve the shopping experience.

She  defines four stages of social commerce – and most companies now are just in the first phase:

  • In the first phase, Let’s Be Social, companies are using social technologies for the sake of being the social. The focus is on the brand, and building a community and its value.
  • In the second phase, Enlightened Engagement, companies recognize that customers seek to be informed during the shopping experience, and integrate an information layer onto the two-way dialog.  This is done through external voices, from customers, prospects, subject matter experts, in the form of reviews or opinions, for example.
  • In the third phase, Store of the Community, customers help drive product selection, assortment, and merchandising. Few companies are ready for this phase, as it requires a complete rewiring of the organization.
  • Finally, in the fourth phase, Frictionless Commerce, the buying experience is completely redesigned to create a fully customer-centric experience. Companies will need to start with a blank slate to truly envision what this will look like.

Download Lora’s presentation here.

Early movers are pioneering ways to transform the shopping experience.

Several companies presented yesterday, representing the pioneering spirit of those at the forefront of social commerce. Here are my favorite take-aways:

  • I loved Bob Kupchen’s (of Delta Airlines) thought about bringing Apple store-lke customer service to the Delta ticket counter. In fact, removing the ticket altogether. Give every ticket agent a mobile phone, so he/she can serve customers without a physical (and psychological) barrier that separates the customer and the company, and from anywhere in the terminal.  Bob reminds us to focus on the customer and transform the experience, shifting it from transactional to emotional. (Download Bob’s presentation here or watch the video clip here.)
  • I spoke with Steve Bendt of Best Buy, and asked him about Twelpforce, their 2500+ employee led Twitter account. What I loved is how he referred to it as not just a support channel, but a discovery engine. Customers don’t just ask for product support, but for product recommendations. When I asked Steve about overcoming the fear of putting associate voices on Twitter, he said “our employees already represent our brand in our stores, so why not online too?” Best Buy understands that its associates are its best evangelists, and that a program like this is a win for its associates, for customers, and the brand.
  • Bert Dumars of Newell Rubbermaid reminded us that every product has its advocates.  Even sink mats. Rubbermaid discovered its most ardent fans had ideas on how to improve the product, and remade the sink mats with their feedback.  He also shared that Rubbermaid’s product teams meet every Monday and read their top 5 product recommendations, and bottom 5.  Rubbermaid is actively listening to product feedback, and empowering customers to impact product design.
  • Gerardo Dada of Bazaarvoice had a great case study on one of their clients, Oriental Trading.  A cross-functional team, from Inventory, Product Development, Quality Assurance, Merchandising, E-Commerce, and Customer Service, meets every week to go over product reviews. They rely on product reviews to improve product copy, work with manufacturers to improve products, make merchandising decisions, and identify influencers based on their level of contribution and helpfulness.  Oriental Trading uses product reviews from customers as direct, specific, and actionable feedback, and improved over 700 products in 5 months.
  • Finally, I liked the example Cathy Halligan of PowerReviews shared from her client Kiddiecare. Kiddiecare created search criteria on their website based on the most common descriptions that come up in customer product views. Kiddiecare is beginning to build a store of the community, by the community and for the community.

The conference continues today, and I’ll recap my favorite take-aways again tomorrow. Check out the live stream here: http://www.ustream.tv/rsc10

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