Social to in-store: how word of mouth is going multi-channel
A modern online marketer lives by the mantra that if you can’t track it, you shouldn’t do it. Unfortunately, most of the techniques for tracking in-store sales generated from online marketing remain rudimentary at best. As summarised in a recent eConsultancy article, these include Google’s ‘best guesstimation’ of how many instore visits resulted from paid search ads, call tracking, click and collect and just ‘asking your customers how they heard of you’!
The tracking problem is more acute with Social when you consider that, according to Radium One, 74% of online sharing takes place outside of the main social networks – often by email, SMS or Whatsapp. That means that a traditional web analytics platform cannot track or attribute sharing on the so-called ‘Dark Social’, so it is often ignored when trying to understand what marketing efforts drove which sales. At Buyapowa, we realised that the answer was to allow customers to share across any social platform they want to using unique trackable sharing links to attribute referrals to the sharer.
So while that solves issues with tracking sharing, until now we have lacked one important element: how to report the physical sales made in-store back to the online sharing platform.
Tracking Social to In-store
Imagine a World where a leading restaurant chain can drive new customer acquisition by inviting its best and most loyal customers to share the chance to get a great deal on a meal with their friends and family. But instead of just driving newsletter sign ups or scatter-gunning vouchers that may never be used, it can now issue coupons or QR codes that can be tracked as they are redeemed and reported this back to the online referral platform. This means that rewards will only be given for referrals that actually lead to meals being bought and paid, and not for proxies like email opt-ins or voucher issuance. Well that is exactly what a leading UK restaurant chain is doing by combing two best of breed innovative technologies in Eagle Eye and Buyapowa.
By embedding Buyapowa’s invite- a-friend platform directly into its website, the restaurant chain will offer customers incentives to share with friends and family. Each referrer will have a unique customer reference that will be included in a unique one- time coupon or QR code provided by Eagle Eye. The restaurant will scan the QR code or coupon at the till which will be validated and redeemed through the Eagle Eye AIR platform via their POS.
In a World where we increasingly expect to measure and attribute every dollar of marketing spend to sales, ‘Social to In-store’ largely remains a blind spot for most marketers. And because marketers struggle to measure and evaluate the channel, they tend to neglect it. That represents a huge missed opportunity!
Because we spend so much time online, and 80% of that time (outside of work) is spent being ‘social’, whether emailing or Whatsapping friends, reading and commenting articles, Facebooking, or Snapchatting etc., retailers should be harnessing social sharing to drive potential customers in-store. Particularly as we now all have the means and technology literally ‘in our hands 24 hours a day’ to spread Word of Mouth faster and wider than ever before.
But until now marketers haven’t had the tools to drive and measure ‘Social to In-store’. That has held it back from fulfilling its potential. But it is all about to change!
We all live in a Multi-Channel World or do we?
While e-Commerce continues to grow exponentially every year, the Centre for Retail Research reported that it only represents about 8.4% of total retail spend across the main European markets, even though in the UK it reaches 15%. These figures illustrate the simple fact that in-store is still where the majority of the retail action happens!
For many businesses, like restaurants, bars, hotels, and gyms, the whole purpose of online is to drive potential customers to physical locations as this is the only way a customer can consume the service being ordered. But even retailers like department stores have long known that getting a person in-store is often more valuable than a sale online, as it allows them to grab the customer’s attention, showcase other wares, up-sell, cross-sell and increase average order values.
So even though a recent study by IDC found that shoppers who buy in-store and online have a 30% higher lifetime value, it seems that many of those smart people with the word ‘Multi- channel’ in their job title are mostly focused on trying to drive online tracking into physical shops, restaurants and gyms. And they should be using social sharing to do this!
Word of Mouth doesn’t just happen online – it needs to be encouraged
It probably never occurs to most of us to tell our friends and family how much we love a brand or retailer – unless a friend or family member asks our opinion, or if we have a great anecdote linked to the brand, like how the airline lost our luggage but gave us cash to buy new clothes until the suitcases showed up! And if it doesn’t spontaneously occur to us online, it is undoubtedly less of a reflex online. For example, when was the last time you spontaneously emailed a friend to say how much you love American Airlines or GAP?
So if retailers don’t do something to encourage Word of Mouth, chances are it won’t happen much or at all. But just asking your online customers to ‘tell your friends’ doesn’t really work either. To really generate sharing, you need to enable and empower your customers and provide intelligent and motivational rewards for both the sharer and the recipient of your brand’s message. Our experience from having implemented innovative ‘invite-a-friend’ programmes with over 100 of the World’s leading brands has taught us that to really generate viral sharing, you need to mix smart rewards, gamification and communal targets.