Rita Hogan and her team at Farm Dog Naturals deserve a multitude of awards, or perhaps a single award, if it could somehow combine: women owned, small business, animal rights, earth friendly, healthiest work environment and best pet products. Farm Dog Naturals incorporates compassion for our furry friends while providing livelihoods for six amazing women spread out across the United States and telecommute to work. All of us at Shoppost admire this outstanding small business and what they are doing for their communities and the planet, so naturally, we wanted to learn more about them. We asked Rita Hogan, the Co-founder of Farm Dog Naturals, a few questions to learn more about her social strategy.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of customer spotlights where we will highlight Shoppost users that are taking an innovative approach to social commerce. Enjoy!
Every day we get inspired by our Shoppost users’ creativity and passion. We love seeing success stories of small businesses rising to the top. Recently, one of our Shoppost users, Barbara Reggio, founder of Trendy Baby Wearing, did just that. She started out with a passion and a clear vision to bring parents and babies closer together. Her zeal and enthusiasm drove her to create an online business selling Baby Slings, Baby Teethers and Wrap-Scrap Accessories that is thriving today. We wanted to know if she had any advice for other small businesses or tips for leveraging social media. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to ask our “baby wearing visionary” a few questions about her success.
Technology has turned shopping into an “in your pajamas” experience or something you can do on the bus on your morning commute. We spend more time shopping at virtual stores than we do in one we can walk into. I can buy my groceries, most of the things I wear and pretty much everything I read without leaving my desk.
Brands and merchants have now discovered that they need to become multi-channel in how they sell to consumers. And not just that, they have to be concerned with multi-screen continuity, as well. That is, the experience on your phone, tablet or laptop all need to have similar feel and functionality. You can’t rely on foot traffic alone for all of your revenue. You need to capture and engage with the consumer or prospect in as many venues as possible. Social media has allowed for the merchant to engage, not just with current customers, but future ones, as well.
Talking about people talking about items
Word of mouth is how we acquired our preferences – “this is what we had in the house growing up” or “that is what my friends bought.” That is pinnacle for a brand. The recommendation on a purchase from someone whose opinion you trust plays a very large part in our buying decisions. But those word of mouth endorsements can be easier thanks to Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and many other social media sites. In the past, you had to contact a friend for a suggestion. Now, you can simply check their Facebook page or quickly crowdsource out a question. Within seconds, you are inundated with suggestions.
According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising. So what does this have to do with social commerce? It’s actually pretty straightforward: A brand or merchant can’t rely on organic conversations to be the only tool for marketing its products. They need to utilize tools to create proactive campaigns that help push the word out. And that is exactly what social commerce is all about.
Defining how to be social and sociable
So, what is social commerce? Marketing consultant Heidi Cohen says it “is the evolution and maturation of social media meets shopping.” I think she’s right on target. It is using social media to create word of mouth for your products.
According to Mashable, several distinct types of social commerce exist:
- Peer-to-peer sales platforms (Shopify, Etsy, Amazon Marketplace): Plugins that integrate ecommerce solutions with inventory management and payment processing.
- Social network-driven sales (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter): Sales driven by referrals from established social networks, or take place on the networks themselves (i.e., through a “shop” tab on Facebook).
- Group buying (Groupon, LivingSocial). Products and services offered at a reduced rate if enough buyers agree to make the purchase.
- Peer recommendations (Amazon, Yelp, JustBoughtIt): Sites that aggregate product or service reviews, recommend products based on others’ purchasing history (i.e. “Others who bought item x also bought item y,” as seen on Amazon), and/or reward individuals for sharing products and purchases with friends through social networks.
- User-curated shopping (The Fancy, Lyst, Svpply): Shopping-focused sites where users create and share lists of products and services for others to shop from.
- Participatory commerce (Threadless, Kickstarter, CutOnYourBias): Consumers become involved directly in the production process through voting, funding and collaboratively designing products.
- Social shopping (Motilo, Fashism, GoTryItOn). Sites that attempt to replicate shopping offline with friends by including chat and forum features for exchanging advice and opinions.
The key to us is social network-driven sales. By including social media as a core emphasis of your marketing and product promotion strategy, you can see a greater ROI. You may think that you are already doing this because you include a link to your site on Facebook or occasionally tweet a product. In theory, this is a great introduction to social commerce. But there’s a lot you’re not seeing when you do that: inventory management, analytics of the clicks and even ROI calculators.
The issue with social network-driven sales is that if you go the route of a tab store you then have to create ways to drive users to that store which, really, defeats the purpose of having the tab store in the first place. You could just as easily send the consumer to your website. Now, you can add all of these tracking pixels and such to measure the engagement and conversions and then retarget the consumer at a later time, but is that really what social network-driven sales has come down to? Why can’t there be another way where you can reach the consumers where they are and engage with them there? Give them the means to make that purchase decision without redirecting them or having them have to go to a tab or see another site. Nothing kills a sale like additional friction in making a purchase. Every additional step is one more place to lose a customer. This, I believe, is where social network driven sales needs to go instead of where it is now — just about collecting likes and shares but not sales. Real ROI is where you see the post actually generate revenue without all of that redirecting and retargeting in hopes of getting a purchase made.
Social commerce is new and everyone is going to sample many of the tools I’ve listed above, as well they should. However, after trying all of them don’t forget your goal: driving sales.
Would love to hear your feedback and hear how you are using social commerce and the tools and practices that are working for you!
Now, I’m reluctant to call this sharing my vision, as that’s a slippery slope to referring to yourself as a ‘visionary.’ And that’d lead to hearing things at home like, “honey, visionaries don’t roll the trash down the curb,” which is a road I do not wish to travel. So, rather than sharing my vision, let me just tell you what Shoppost is and what I hope it will do for you.
Shoppost is a social commerce application that lets merchants sell goods from their Shopify or Big Commerce stores on social media networks. With just a few clicks, you can showcase and sell your products directly on your followers’ Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as on Google+ and Pinterest, letting your customers shop and interact with your product without ever having to leave the site.
We know that people spend an enormous amount of time on social media every day, and this trend will only continue. We’ve seen that consumers follow merchants and product lines they like and, in turn, want to share their experience with their peers. But until now, there wasn’t a simple, effective way to do this within a social media platform, or offer a seamless experience that moves the customer from one platform to the others without frustrating consequences.
Until Shoppost, the solution has been a series of redirects, cumbersome processes and time wasted, resulting in lot of abandoned shopping carts. But now that Shoppost is available, these are problems of the past. Building your Shoppost takes just a minute for you to set up, and purchasing and sharing couldn’t be easier for your customers.
Shoppost lets your customers preview your product with an image or video of the product that’s located directly on the social media platform – they can even interact with the product by selecting a size, color or any other variant. And all of this happens without a redirect. Your customers on Facebook don’t have to leave the site until they land on your secure checkout page.
There’s nothing else out there that’s even close to this functionality. It takes just a minute to promote a product, and even less time for your customers to buy. And additional integrations and enhancements to Shoppost are rolling out all the time. We’ll be sure to keep you posted.
Shoppost costs nothing and can only increase your sales and brand awareness. So give it a try – then be sure to drop me a line to let me know how we’re doing for you.
Ah, Facebook. It’s long been the place you could go to connect with estranged high-school classmates, if you needed a cat video fix, or if you were just dying to find out that the Star Wars personality quiz Aunt Matilda just took says her closest match is Jabba the Hutt.
Of course, you already knew that.
But the one thing Facebook wasn’t was a place you go to buy or sell things. Sure, you might find a coupon code here or there for 15 percent off, or even a sponsored link, but a sales platform it was not.
“Was” being the key word.
Today, Facebook has significant potential as a place to sell your products, which is one of the reasons why we created Shoppost. We believe that the surefire way to turn people off from your products is to make the sales experience clumsy and unintuitive, so we focused on making Shoppost a seamless experience that fits right in with the existing Facebook news feed. The less disruption from the traditional Facebook experience for the customer, the better. And we believe that Shoppost can help you provide that experience to your customers.
What are some other ways your business can use Facebook to drive sales?
Actually Use Posts and Photos to Your Benefit
Sure, you have photos and posts. Chances are that you have a great designer who put together your awesome Facebook profile picture and cover photo. But are you really using your photos and posts to your full advantage? Cover photos can and should be changed regularly to promote particular products, with a direct link to the product page in the caption of the image – not to your general website, but to the product itself.
Jon Loomis has some suggestions on how to improve the reach of your posts, as well. He recommends creating your post as a link share while using an appropriately-sized image to display prominently in news feeds – thus getting the benefits of an image-focused post while still maintaining a link to your product. He also suggests limiting the text to 90 characters, so that your call to action shows up on mobile devices.
Fully Optimize Your Approach
We are in the age of big data, and if there’s one thing that Facebook generates, it is a mountain of data. In scouring over this information, we can glean some ideas on how to approach a Facebook strategy. For one, Adobe’s Social Intelligence Report recently found that engagement on video posts is up by 785 percent from last year. It used to be that video based posts didn’t see much traffic – that seems to be changing.
But when to post? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best day of the week for Facebook engagement is Friday between 2 and 3 p.m., when a sizable segment of the workforce has begun to mentally check out for the weekend. Tuesday would appear to be the worst day to attempt to engage with your audience. But in order to get your product onto somebody’s newsfeed, you need to…
Utilize Paid Promotion
Like it or not, recent changes to Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm mean that brands basically have to utilize paid in order to reach customers. (You can count Eat24 as one of the “nots.”) But there are advantages to this. You can reach a more engaged audience by not only tailoring your content, but also defining the reach of the promoted post to an audience that you define. And after you’ve seen results, you can further optimize the paid reach through tweaking and testing, in order to get maximum value for your dollar.
Need more proof? Adobe found that the click-through rate on Facebook ads in the U.S. has increased by 160 percent over the past year alone, even as the costs per click have declined slightly. Those are two trend lines going in positive directions for your business’ bottom line.
Have any Facebook selling tips? Share them with us in the comments below!
It was only a few short years ago that “people in the know” were telling anyone who would listen that nobody would ever buy products on the Internet. And they had good reason to think so. The Internet was an untested medium. The security involved was poorly – if at all – understood. People thought of the web as nothing more than chat rooms and email. The Internet might end up being a B2B e-commerce destination, but for consumers? Hardly.
But things changed. Today, e-commerce is a more than $1 trillion a year industry, with millions buying everything from pineapples to paintball guns online. How did we get here?
It’s been a long road since the very first e-commerce transaction, back in the early 1970s. But e-commerce as a whole really didn’t take off until the 1990s.
The growth of the World Wide Web, spurred by online services like America Online and Prodigy, exposed most consumers to the idea of spending money online for the first time. 1994-1995 saw the birth of both Amazon.com and eBay, which today top $90 billion in yearly revenue. Their initial growth came during a time when investors were pouring money into tech startups. This exuberance of the late 90s led to IPOs for a number of companies that had never made a profit, and in many cases, had never even created a single product. In some cases, like Google, Yahoo! and others, they were able to ride out the dot-com crash of the late 90s, a bubble that shuttered more than half of all dot-coms and saw more than $5 trillion disappear from the stock market in a matter of months.
The growth of companies like Amazon and eBay following the dot-com bubble is indicative of the recent explosion of e-commerce across the entire web. Amazon’s growth has been remarkable, but even they were recently challenged as the #1 e-commerce retailer in the world by Alibaba, a Chinese company that in 2013 handled more transactions than both Amazon and eBay combined.
This explosion of e-commerce has also inspired a number of new business models – one that’s founded on convenience and fulfilling on-demand desires. Groupon, LivingSocial and a gamut of food delivery sites have enabled local businesses to significantly extend their outreach past their website. Sites like Etsy have enabled anyone to be their own small business. And ridesharing companies Lyft and Uber have turned the existing transportation industry on its head as taxi companies scramble to compete.
E-commerce is also expanding into the social media realm as companies continue to try to reach customers where they are congregating socially. Just a few days ago, Amazon announced a partnership with Twitter to create “#AmazonCart,” a tool that allows Twitter users to put items into their Amazon cart without ever leaving the site. And last year, Starbucks took to Twitter for its “Tweet-a-Coffee” program which lets you buy a $5 gift card to Starbucks for a friend via Twitter.
In later blog posts, we’ll expand on the growth of social media and e-commerce, why social networks like Twitter and Facebook are the future of online selling, and how we created Shoppost as a way to bridge these two worlds in a way that has never been done before.