March 17, 2011 by George Eberstadt
Last month, I wrote about the challenges of social commerce – in particular, why it’s so hard to get people to share purchase-related information. And I promised I’d follow up with a more optimistic post about an approach that’s working. We call this “contextual sharing”.
Try this: Ask a random sample of people how they feel about telling their friends about recent purchases. Most of the people you ask will probably give you an answer like this: once in a while they’ll tell some friends about some purchases, but the idea of mass-sharing their purchases is repulsive. Now ask them how they feel about answering questions about their purchases. You’ll probably get a very consistent response: sure, I’m happy to help; in fact, I enjoy sharing my experience. Now try a 3rd question. Ask these people if they’d be willing to let people who are shopping for items like ones they’ve already bought know that they are available for advice, if needed. The answer will probably sound like this: as long as I’m not broadcasting about my purchase in a spammy or self-promotional way, sure.
This is the big idea behind contextual sharing: people will share purchase-related information when they have confidence that it will be relevant to the audience.
If you sell online, this has huge implications for your sharing strategy. Don’t over-reach by trying to get your customers to mass-share. Instead, start by asking for contextual sharing. You’ll get a much higher sharing rate, and you can always put the request for a mass-share at then end, to catch that small % of customers who will participate.
Here’s some data from our experience running the TurnTo Purchase Sharing application, which uses a contextual model, on several dozen websites spanning a broad range of verticals for over a year. The system opens an overlay box on the order confirmation page (ie immediately after purchase) that looks like this:
15% of customers click “Sure” (!!). Then the system asks for an answer to the question “Why did you choose this?”
About 1/3 of the people who clicked “Sure” also add a comment. That means that about 5% of all items purchased are getting one of these check-out comments attached, along with permission to show that comment to other shoppers. Finally, the system offers shoppers the opportunity to post that comment to Facebook and Twitter. The rate there is much lower. But by having asked first for the contextual sharing permission, the store at least got that.
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.