The Social Media Revolution

Last week at the Annual Summit, one of the key topics on everyone’s mind was social media. During one of the sessions, the moderator asked if there was anyone not using some form of social media (be it Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and as I looked around the room, barely any hands were raised. Retailers now have a major presence on social networking sites, have their own community forums and create their own blogs. There are jobs dedicated to coordinating and maintaining social media efforts. It’s becoming much more commonplace to visit a site and see links to the company’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages.

The growing prevalence of retailers on Twitter was especially apparent to me when BizRate® announced the Circle of Excellence Award winners last week. Last year at this time, we announced the winners and those retailers publicized the award on their sites, as per usual. This year, in addition to those efforts, winners immediately began blogging and tweeting the good news to their followers. Companies can get news out quickly through these channels and are able to have more of a dialogue with their customers.

While retailers have recognized the need to dedicate resources to social media efforts, there are still questions about the best way to take advantage of these new channels. In Q4 2009, BizRate Research is going to run a “Hot Topic” study on social media, in order to get a better sense of why consumers become fans of retailers on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter, or watch their YouTube videos. Is the driving force to get special deals? To find out about upcoming events? Does it engender loyalty? We’ll be taking a closer look at the social media phenomenon, and look forward to sharing the results in a few months!

Delving Into Email Marketing

Hot Topic: Email Marketing

In Q2 2009, BizRate Research ran a “Hot Topic” study on Email Marketing*, taking a look at what types of emails have the best open and site visit rates, the importance of consumers being able to control their preferences, and what types of email promotions drive purchases.

Check out some of the data highlights:

43% of consumers were not currently receiving emails from the retailer they had just purchased from. Of those who were already receiving emails, 81% were happy with the frequency. For these consumers, nearly 30% felt it is very important for them to be able to specify the topics and frequency of the emails they receive.

Open rates are high

Only 3% tend to delete an email without opening it, while 59% will open an email from the retailer they purchased from nearly every time they receive one. The emails with the best open rates are special offers (90%), and notifications about items being back in stock (71%). A little over half of consumers always visit the site after opening these types of emails. Emails with references to special occasions or holidays were not opened as frequently (only 53%) and only 34% visit the site nearly every time.

Types of email promotions

Free shipping/delivery is the email promotion with the most influence over whether a consumer will make a purchase (63%). Percent off or dollars off coupons are also popular (53% and 50%, respectively), while gift with purchase promotions have less influence (25%).

If you are interested in learning more about the “Hot Topic” program, then please contact us. We welcome suggestions for future topics – leave a comment with your ideas!

*For this Hot Topic study, 63,155 consumers submitted responses Network-wide. Survey responses were collected from April 29 – June 30, 2009.

Tracking Metrics that Lead to Better Conversion

While BizRate hosts several services which are geared specifically towards supporting customer care teams, we also help merchants track metrics that lead to better conversion rates.  Additionally, we recently launched our abandonment survey that not only is free, but also helps merchants measure the success of their websites by considering the voice of customer.  Combining this qualitative knowledge with the quantitative trends helps get at the “why” when testing new layouts and creatives, and understanding why a customer visits and leaves without purchase.

Our standard point-of-sale survey captures these 8 metrics to help track factors that influence conversion:

  • Ease of finding what you’re looking for
  • Overall look and design of site
  • Clarity of product information
  • Selection of products
  • Charges stated clearly before order submission
  • Prices relative to other online merchants
  • Variety of Shipping options
  • Shipping Charges

These metrics are found on our daily VitalMails and Vital Signs where you can track performance on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.  You can also contact us to sign up for the free BizAdvisor report which not only provides regular snapshot of your website’s performance, but also how you compare to other retailers in your category.  Couple that with our abandonment reporting which breaks out visitors, cart abandoners, and check-out abandoners and you have a quite a comprehensive outlook…FOR FREE. Yes. For free.

Is Going Mobile Worth It?

Hot Topic: Mobile Commerce

One of the most buzzed about topics in the industry right now is Mobile Commerce. At the Annual Summit last week, there was a session dedicated to this topic, and retailers were interested to hear best practices from those who currently have mobile sites up and running. A couple of the key takeaways of the session were that retailers should make sure that being in mobile makes sense for their specific customer base (don’t do it without a goal in mind), and if they decide to design a mobile app, to make sure it is something unique that no one else can do.

BizRate Research is currently wrapping up a “Hot Topic” study on Mobile Commerce. We launched questions on this topic across the majority of our Network of retailers* during Q3 2009, and we plan to pulse them again in the future to get a sense of consumer adoption.

Preliminary data shows that nearly half of online buyers (48%) currently own a cell phone with internet access. Interestingly, of those who do not have internet access on their cell phones, only 14% plan to buy an internet-enabled phone in the next year. Of those planning to buy a phone in the next year, the iPhone is the most sought after phone (29%), with Blackberry close behind (24%).

Currently, 7% of online buyers make purchases from their mobile phones, a number that is expected to rise in the coming months and years. Slightly more online buyers (13%) use their phones to browse for items or to locate products in a nearby store, while 12% are using them to track orders.

We will be posting more results after concluding our analysis, so stay tuned! If you are interested in learning more about the “Hot Topic” program, then please contact us. We welcome suggestions for future topics – leave a comment with your ideas!

*For this Hot Topic study, 101,456 consumers submitted responses Network-wide. Survey responses were collected from July 1 – September 30, 2009.