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You may have seen our recently published Social Trends Report which featured some of the great takeaways from our Social Summit 2012 event.
Marketers from the likes of Walmart, 3M, WIRED Magazine, HomeDepot.com, Cabela’s and others came together at our annual event to share their thoughts about what works and what’s driving the young ecosystem of social.
The prevailing view from attendees was that brands can gain an important advantage by not only listening to their customers, but also by responding and interacting.
Those brands who aren’t engaged, run the very real risk of falling off their customer’s radar, especially considering consumers’ expectations around brands’ ability to provide timely and relevant content across channels.
In total, four key trends emerged.
Data-responsive brands will rapidly gain ground
Companies that are quick to detect and adapt to signals in social data will be more efficient, more profitable, and more beloved by consumers than ever before.
The race to omnichannel will separate winners from losers
Consumers are becoming “omnichannel”– floating freely between online, offline, and mobile channels during the research and purchase process (so much so, that consumers now refer to 10.4 information sources before buying), all the while expecting a channel-agnostic experience.
Brands that seamlessly deliver the right information, utility, and convenience for each channel to these omnichannel consumers will win their business and loyalty.
It’s an important point to note, considering consumers who research across online, offline, and mobile channels spend 18-36% more than those who don’t.
Retailer JewelryTV, which has no offline presence, realises the importance. Its consumers use mobile devices as the second screen beyond the television or PC and are reaping the benefits with 17% of the online business now coming via mobile channels.
Humanising consumers will enhance marketing
Consumers are more than the sum of their social connections and interests. The sentiment graph will reveal to companies what’s missing – what consumers truly care about, and the intensity of these feelings.
Walmart has seen the power consumer can wield and even harnessed it through initiatives like it’s Get on the Shelf promotion where entrepreneurs were invited to submit their product ideas online.
Walmart’s customer community then voted on the 4,000 ideas submitted with the top voted products going on sale in stores and on Walmart.com.
It’s a great example of both engaging with your customer community to further develop a valued relationship and guaranteeing a market for a new product.
Brands will become media
Brands must become media publishers that attract, not interrupt, consumers with valuable content. Companies today can’t broadcast messages and simply expect the consumers to listen, but should create interesting and captivating content.
For example, many fashion retailers and lifestyle brands are engaging audiences with Twitter, YouTube and Facebook series that publish pictures and stories from everyday experiences that map to the brand values and mores.
The four trends reaffirm the belief that change isn’t coming; it is already here. As mentioned in the Social Trends Report, social data is now a brand’s most valuable ally. It reveals what consumers think, how they feel, and who they identify with.
Is all this a good thing? Yes. It means brands need to evolve, but it is no different to any other time in history. For keen marketers, it also brings a great opportunity to bring a fresh approach to solidify their position in the market and reach new consumers.
From a brand’s point of view, these trends and insights bring the chance to converse with consumers. For some it will be the first time they interact directly with their consumers, but for others it will be an opportunity to reconnect.
Either way, there’s ground to be gained by brands willing to listen and invest in a two-way conversation.