Gideon Lask is CEO and founder of social commerce firm
. He has vast experience in e-commerce having run
with a turnover of £100m a year. Previously he owned and ran group buying site
between 2001 and 2004. Launched in 2011 BuyaPowa provides a suite of social commerce tools, designed to generate leads and drive loyalty, and says it has engaged more than 25,000 consumers on behalf of the companies it works with.
Since the internet exploded in popularity and ease-of-access, many brands have experimented with ways to market themselves to customers in the brave new digital world. In the early days, it was enough to simply have a basic web page giving people details of the company. But the rapid evolution of the internet and changing landscape of consumer behaviour is a constant challenge for brands. Some industries have adapted better than others. Tailored e-commerce stores like ASOS have thrived, for example, while publishers have struggled to connect with people and find a way to monetise their online presence beyond simply advertising.
For years we’ve seen publishers trying to incorporate e-commerce into their offerings. It’s a perfectly logical move as they have passionate and dedicated communities, but no-one has cracked it. The typical model has been to shoehorn in an e-store, or have an affiliate programme, but these models don’t offer anything back to the community. It’s a one-way relationship.
Bridging the editorial divide is exactly where publishers have been failing. It’s missing a big opportunity to not only make fans feel valued and reward their loyalty, but also to generate advertising revenue beyond simple clickthroughs.
The publishing industry is simply too competitive to be trotting out these old concepts. Major publishing houses are closing down titles and consolidating others to save money. Not enough are pushing the boundaries in the opposite direction, to generate new revenue streams beyond imposing paywalls. They don’t understand what to do with the incredible amount of data they have, or how to approach their own communities.
Now is the time for publishers to be disruptive, let the old ideas fall by the wayside and throw the old e-commerce rulebook away because it’s just not working. According to a recent report by Buddy Media, in partnership with Booz and Co, cost-per-click and cost-per-mille advertising formats are set to lose their grip. They predict that cost-per-lead and cost-per action will grow to represent 50% of the market by 2015. Commercial success for advertisers will no longer be solely defined by the number of products sold, but by the leads and the buzz generated.
Making the transition from content to commerce is something editors need to swiftly get behind. It’s about offering publishers’ existing communities the opportunity to truly engage with brands they see in publications and love, and having the means to reward them for their passion. Social commerce is giving us many different ways to do that, including co-buying – the updated idea of group buying, with social media to spread the message. It gives the power back to the community by allowing people to vote for products they want to receive discounts on, rather than waiting for flash sales on random products, which means brands are only ever engaging with people who like them already. The publisher is in the unique position to deliver a product its community actually wants, and transform the relationship into a two-way, reciprocal conversation.
Success in social commerce is about harnessing the real power of the community. For example, a magazine could run a review of a great new product – it could be anything, a laptop, fitness gadget or even riding boots. The fans in the community could then request that the publisher puts the product on sale through its e-commerce channels. These are people who are already positive about the brand, and will appreciate the publisher using its influence to give them something they want. Effectively, this is giving the power back to the community, galvanising them into being brand advocates. As a result, the more people who join together, the more likely they are to have great products made available to them at a discount.
So now you have a situation where fans are acting as advocates through social media channels, effectively advertising the publisher and the brand. Our in-house research shows that people generate 500 positive tweets per co-buy and tell 14 others on average. This allows companies to take advantage of the fact that other consumers are far more likely to trust the independent voices of fellow customers, rather than formal corporate advertising or direct mailing attempts, which all too often end up in the bin without even being looked at.
Despite the economic doom and gloom, this is a really exciting time for publishers. The internet has opened up a whole new way for them to talk to their communities. It also complements traditional advertising formats and can work as part of advertising packs or as standalone campaigns. If publishers are not brave and don’t move away from the old, broken models, it’s only a matter of time before a retailer spots the opportunity and assumes the advantage.
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