People are Talking
T o hear fans of SoLoMo tell it, about the only thing this convergence of social, local and mobile won’t do is leap tall buildings in a single bound. Billed as the next wave of retailer engagement, it provides bricks-and-mortar stores with something that online just doesn’t offer.
“Shopping is a social experience. Online shopping, not really,” says Rob Reed, founder and CEO of location-based marketing platform MomentFeed. “That’s what you get in a bricks-and-mortar retailer... And that’s what retailers need to leverage to compete.”
According to the Global Trust in Advertising report released earlier this year by Nielsen, some 92 percent of those surveyed say they trust their friends’ suggestions completely, while 70 percent rated online consumer opinions highly. Both of those far outstrip more traditional forms of media, from newspaper advertising to brand-generated content like websites and e-mail, which were trusted by about half of all consumers.
That makes it increasingly vital that brands connect more closely with their customers. The intersection of social, local and mobile makes it easier.
Importance of being found
In the real world, Cinnabon has more than 750 stores. In the world of social media, however, its presence appeared much greater – and less accurate. Cinnabon had two unique challenges based on its location strategy: malls with multiple stores sharing the same physical address; and airports with Cinnabon stores on different concourses.
Cinnabon needed to clean up the data so customers could find the bakery’s locations on social media. Those locations are doubly important because many apps pull data from sites like Facebook and Foursquare; what’s more, with so many options for check-ins, Cinnabon had no way to track how customers interacted on social media sites.
“Any time someone is going to visit your store, you want to give them the tools to check in,” says Rachel Hadley, Cinnabon’s PR and corporate communications manager. “Location-based services are giving our guests a megaphone to tell friends they’re here.”
Working with MomentFeed’s PinSync venue optimization process, Cinnabon was able to remove duplicate locations and incorrect information. Once that process was completed, Cinnabon ran a campaign offering a charitable donation for each check-in. The combined campaign and venue optimization resulted in a 671 percent increase in customer engagement.
“Social activities are really tied closely to the major key performance indicators that retailers value — foot traffic ... and actual sales,” Reed says. “That’s the game changer that SoLoMo represents for all retailers.”
Many networks, one dashboard
Cinnabon parent company Focus Brands, which also owns Carvel, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Moe’s Southwest Grill and Schlotzsky’s, “sees the value” in social media-based promotions “and we realize that it’s important to offer our franchise partners the opportunity to create loyalty programs,” Hadley says. “The biggest thing is creating word of mouth for your brand or your company.”
Customer engagement may seem like a nebulous concept without a direct link to the bottom line, but Reed believes it is the first step in cultivating a relationship.
“What the customer is saying is, ‘I’m here and opening a channel of communication with you and I’m open to you reciprocating,’” Reed says. “You can decide how you want to respond. Do you want to send a special offer or let the customers know what’s going on in-store today, or show where the new items might be?”
MomentFeed merges social networks into one dashboard, allowing users to see what customers in a particular store are saying at any given moment on one of a number of social media channels. It also allows for competitive analysis at the store level.
What’s coming next is a push to respond at the local level. MomentFeed is testing a process that allows local managers to write something for their stores, submit it for corporate approval and have it populate social media sites fairly quickly.
“When you publish content locally, you have 40 times the rate of engagement that you get from publishing content on the brand page,” Reed says.
The MomentFeed dashboard also integrates a Twitter user’s Klout ranking — allowing a company to know when a social media VIP has entered a store.
“We’ve traditionally measured how valuable a customer is by how much they spend with us,” Reed says. “The new column of volume with social media is how powerful that consumer is at sharing our brand and potentially influencing their friends and creating a word-of-mouth media value through their social engagements.”
Encouraging opinionated users
Word of mouth is valuable, but Duy Huynh wanted more information. That’s what led to the development of Taap.it, a social engine that harnesses the power of reviews.
“We would find a ton of restaurants on Yelp or Foursquare,” says Huynh, Taap.it’s founder and CEO. “If we selected the places that had a 4.5 rating, we’d think we were probably going somewhere good. But once we got into the restaurant, we had no idea what to order.”
That’s why Taap.it requires users to be specific: restaurants per se aren’t reviewed; menu items are. Clothing stores aren’t rated, but a particular tote bag is.
“It’s about looking inside the places to see what’s good,” Huynh says. “Each and every item is reviewed inside the store.” It also gives smaller retailers an opportunity to create mobile storefronts, just by snapping photos of each item in the shop.
That eventually will lead to a Taap.it local search function whereby users can find specific products. “You would just type in the product you want — a Mac or a specific pair of shoes or a certain appetizer — and you would see where the item is nearby,” Huynh says.
Localized search requires the generation of a great deal of content, and Taap.it offers incentives. Users who write a review might receive a certain number of reward points and additional bonuses for posting on social media channels or including a photo.
Perhaps the most unusual opportunities for convergence exist in sports stadiums. Taap.it is in discussion with several venues to allow users to interact while at games. The company also is testing an ability to order food from a mobile phone and have it delivered to your seat — without missing a play — and to purchase driver-specific gear at NASCAR events, picking it up at a nearby kiosk after the race ends.