November 17, 2011 by George Eberstadt
This is such an important validation of the effectiveness of social merchandising that, if we’d thought of it, we would have commissioned a market research firm to write this study for us. But, even better, it’s actually a peer-reviewed article produced by a team of university marketing professors and published in the journal of the American Marketing Association, the Journal of Marketing Research. It’s titled: Online Social Interactions: A Natural Experiment on Word of Mouth Versus Observational Learning. (There’s also a nice write-up and interview with the lead author on Red Orbit.)
The findings are straight-forward: Online, as in the physical world, people are more likely to buy things that they see other people bought. There’s no word of mouth here. This isn’t about customer ratings and reviews. This is just about seeing the purchases of other people. The merchandising lessons are simple:
- You can improve conversion rates by showing shoppers that other people have really bought a product (on the product detail page)
- You can encourage consideration by showing the purchases other shoppers made (in your product discovery/recommendation/cross-sell merchandising)
The study looked at a period when Amazon put up and took down the “what other people bought” section on their digital camera products to see what effect having/not having this information had on sales. Using these data,
The authors observe a herd behavior among consumers when the OL or sales information is positive, but surprisingly, they observe no herd behavior when consumers face negative OL or sales information. [OL stands for “Observational Learning”, which in this case means “seeing what other people bought”.]
In other words: when shoppers saw that other people were buying a particular item, they became more likely to buy it. But if an item didn’t have peer-purchase information, that absence didn’t hurt sales. So you don’t need sales coverage for your whole catalog – show purchase information where you’ve got it, and don’t worry about it where you don’t.
Here are a couple examples of stores using tools that deliver the OL effect. For lesson #1 (on the product detail page, showing shoppers that other customers are also buying the item), have a look at the 98 check-out comments on these shoes at GoJane (scroll past the Q&A). For lesson #2 (showing products that other customers are buying to encourage consideration and cross-sell), have a look at the “See what your friends bought” tab on the right edge of the window here at emitations. What effect do these tools have on you? Does this sort of merchandising make you feel like buying?
If you want to take advantage of the OL effect to improve your sales, give us call.
June 8, 2010 by George Eberstadt
It’s a big day at TurnTo: we’re introducing our Social Commerce Suite. (Yes, we know that it’s ambitious to call it a “Suite” with just 2 products – please humor us. Also, there’s more in the pipeline…) Official press release here.
So what’s new? 1. We’ve done a nearly complete overhaul of our current product, now branded “Social Merchandising” and 2. We’re introducing a new product called “Social Purchase Sharing”.
Social Merchandising. We’ve made improvements top to bottom.
- Shoppers who open the widget but don’t personalize it by checking for friends will now see a range of other customers and their purchases designed to give the site that buzzing busy-store feeling and to encourage consideration and purchase of more items. (The goal is to address one of the big limitations of the shopping online: lots of stuff in the stores, but no people.) We’ve built a ranking engine that selects which customers and which items to show, ensuring the greatest relevance given limited data.
- We’ve made the value and process of personalizing the widget a lot more transparent to the user, so many more of those who open the widget will go the next step and personalize it to see their own friends in place of those the system picks. Underlying this is a simplification of the sharing rules to a vanilla Twitter-style “follow” model. (See our last post about the importance of simplicity when it comes to privacy and sharing.) We’ve also switched to delegated login for most of the friend list sources we support, including the newest Facebook protocols. (The short explanation: it’s better.)
- The widget now shows big, attractive product images throughout, so not only are shoppers seeing which of their friends also shop at that store, the purchases those friends made look particularly inviting. Good for cross-sell and order size improvement.
- The comment mechanism has been redone to both capture more input from buyers and to show it more visibly to shoppers.
- We’ve made significant enhancements to the guts of the system to provide greater speed and reliability. These include use of a Content Delivery Network as well as a range of server-side caching and summarizing strategies. The design point was to be able to support the largest ecommerce sites out there.
- We’ve added new tools for optimizing the button that calls up the widget. It doesn’t do stores any good to have a fabulous social merchandising tool if only a few shoppers use it. We now provide a range of more interactive button designs as well as tools for doing rotation tests (randomized A/B/C tests) of alternatives. In its initial use, we’ve already seen large engagement rate improvements.
In a nutshell: you have to see it. So here’s the first screen shot we’ve released:
Social Purchase Sharing. Our partner merchants have been telling us how valuable it is when a customer posts to their social network (most often Facebook and Twitter) about their purchase. So we’ve added a simple tool to significantly increase the amount of purchase sharing online stores can generate. It’s an overlay that appears on the order confirmation page right after a purchase and makes a clear, persuasive appeal to share. The permission obtained from the buyer is also used to power the Social Merchandising widget, so the “sharing” appears both on the social networks and on the store site itself. Here’s an example of the overlay – just picture it on top of your order confirmation page. (See also our blog post on “Like” vs. “Bought”.
The TurnTo Social Commerce Suite will be generally available to online retailers at the beginning of Q3, 2010. If you are in Chicago this week for the Internet Retailer show (IRCE), please come by booth #431 and we’ll give you a full demo. If you’d like more information on the thinking that went into these products, please have a look at the white paper we just released: Onsite Social for Online Commerce.
May 27, 2010 by George Eberstadt
After over a year in the market helping a few dozen innovative online retailers add social shopping features to their stores, we thought it was time to synthesize and share the big lessons we’ve learned. So here [drumroll] is our new whitepaper: Onsite Social for Online Commerce. In it, we get specific about things like:
- How to leverage social networks for Social Merchandising within your store
- How to most effectively encourage shoppers to share news of their purchases with their social network friends
- Why adding Social to ecommerce sites requires different strategies than for content sites
- What sort of results are realistic to expect
We’re just putting it out there – no registration required to get it. If you find it thought-provoking, we hope you’ll get in touch with us and pass it on to others. Enjoy!