Measuring Excitement in Social Media Research

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Inbound marketing is difficult to measure. Word-of-mouth marketing is also difficult to measure. Regardless, e-commerce demands that analysts figure out how to accomplish both of these measures. Like just-in-time inventory, crowd-sourced marketing happens in real-time. Analysts must be able to capture the split-second changes that occur as online shoppers follow first one trendsetter and then another.

What Is Social Retailing? Am I Doing It, You Ask?

Consumers who discover and look at products because of crowdsourcing activities are engaging in social retailing. Interestingly, retail operations that are including email sharing in addition to the social media sharing that occurs through Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, tend to earn more revenue than if they were just using Pinterest, say.

One important consideration of e-commerce use of social media is the share-ability of images. Consumers are more likely to share information about products and services when they can easily re-pin or post beautiful, high-resolution images. When those images are accompanied by great copy, the click-ability of the share is greatly enhanced. The importance of quality images to online activity is underscored by the fact that social media analysts have begun to refer to Facebook as an online display channel.

Chasing e-Commerce with Stronger Analytics

The capacity to continuously capture the movements of e-commerce customers may well be the next frontier in social media marketing. All shoppers are capable of having a ripple effect on the marketing success of a company, but when this phenomenon occurs online - through social media communication - it can be staggering.

Analysts refer to this as the viral coefficient of an ad.

One way of looking at this - from the standpoint of the marketer - is that the initial advertisement can pull in a customer. But that new customer can pull in other customers without any additional expenditures by the company. This is known in advertising as the earned media. Advertising that feeds e-commerce in this way basically sets the stage for a buy-one-get-one-free customer recruitment strategy.

Investors Get a Closer Look at Metrics

Although e-commerce websites are avid users of online behavioral tracking of customers, some are more transparent about their approaches than others. The approaches to consumer surveillance, data collection, and data analysis that an e-commerce business adopts do not have to sinister. Some companies are eager to learn from the industry even as they innovate their way to the front of the line. They may blog about their approaches to analysis and share their market research findings. Other companies - those who undoubtedly are experiencing stellar success - have recognized the opportunity to open their dashboards to venture capitalists. Investors have been given passwords to the dashboards of the customer analytics (typically start-up) companies who are watching the customer trends and revenue changes in real time.

Clustering consumers into e-commerce cohorts help to determine the impact of shopping cycles, sales and promotions, and individual social media influencers on regular customers. For example, consumers who have iPads may make more purchases and spend more money on an e-commerce website than customers who do not have iPads. But students who own may only make more purchases in August and September, as school starts, and then again in May and June when school lets out. Knowing customers at this level helps companies verify the validity of their segmentation outcomes and improve their targeting strategies.

It Is Still All About the Customer Experience

The digital media real estate on typical e-commerce websites is linked to algorithms that calculate the return on investment - practically pixel by pixel.

But social media marketing doesn't lend itself to this sort of parsing. There is a dynamic aspect to social media marketing that does not occur in other types of marketing - at least not to the same degree. Though social media marketing metrics are still evolving, one thing is clear: analysts must be able to measure enthusiasm, excitement, and propensity to return to the site for more great deals. Online social shoppers may be looking for great buys and fantastic trendy items, but they are also looking for something more. If they weren't, then they would not be engaging in the social aspect of the experience. The more that e-commerce sites can understand the value of "social" to consumers, the better they will be able to capitalize on the dynamic. The goal is to provide something of value to the customer through the social aspect of the online shopping, as well as to help customers score a great purchase.