Smart businesses use social media to listen to their consumer marketplace in order to present themselves to their customers in innovative ways that will drive conversion rates through sales and creating brand loyalty. However, while social media interactions are in themselves simple, the process of building a social business involves a complex customer life cycle, often utilizing multiple sections of the business and requiring a flexible and responsive attitude to changes in technology and customer behavior. Your business needs to be social-media savvy in order to get customers engaged and keep them coming back to your brand.
Social commerce has five main stages which make up the life cycle of the social customer. The first stage is capture. This stage is not about conversions to sales. Instead, it is about generating new sales leads. This can be achieved in an almost limitless number of ways, but all of them boil down to getting and maintaining the attention of your target audience. For social businesses using e-marketing strategies, 75% of new leads are generated through social media platforms.
The second stage is education. This process begins inside first, and then progresses outside. Firstly, you need to establish what the core features and values of your brand are, and ensure that all of your communications adhere to and promote these. The type of social business you wish to be will heavily inform your social marketing strategy. Once you have established this, you need to find ways to communicate your brand to potential customers. For example, if you want to present your brand as young, vibrant and dynamic, you might make greater use of YouTube videos and channels to promote your products and services. If you want to raise awareness of your services as professional and customer-friendly, make sure that you have positive reviews on websites that you know your customers will use, such as Yelp.
The third stage of the customer life cycle in social e-commerce is membership. Once you have engaged your customer and educated them about your brand and what it can offer them, you should encourage them to join a community of customers with whom they have something in common and provide them with compelling and relevant content to keep them coming back to your brand. This may take the form of forums on your business website, a regularly updated blog, email newsletters, Facebook updates. Constantly monitor and take into account feedback from your community so that it can inform your content creation strategies going forward, and respond rapidly to tides in customer opinion. A total revamp of your brand may seem like an extreme strategy, but the ephemeral nature of social media makes this more possible than you think, and may be key to keeping your customers engaged.
The fourth stage in the cycle is purchase. Once you have engaged your customers and got them to psychologically 'buy in' to your brand, the next stage is to convert this loyalty into sales. Make it as easy as possible for customers to purchase in the way that they choose, whether this is through Amazon, your company website, or a third party. Get customers who have purchased to post reviews, and share them across social media.
The final stage in the customer life cycle for your social e-business is sharing. This stage can't take place until the customer has been involved in the entire process outlined above. For example, customers posting reviews on TripAdvisor must have gone to the attraction, location or destination that they are reviewing. Make sure that the views your customers share are easy for other customers to find, by putting 'share to social network' buttons on all your media pages and incentivizing sharing through competitions and loyalty reward schemes.
Sam is a blogger and contributing writer for the digital marketing agency Quick Sprout where he works alongside Neil Patel.