At Social Media Week, Turning Pinterest Into Profits, the Hype Over Hypertargeting, and Driving Sales With UGC

Brands are under increasing pressure to turn their presence on social media platforms into measurable profits, and Social Media Week in New York City revealed that many companies are investing in technology to better serve and interact with tech-obsessed consumers.

A beacon of hope for hypertargeting
Even as geolocation technologies that allow businesses to market to shoppers in the immediate vicinity of their bricks-and-mortar locations are becoming mainstream, beacons — small, affordable hardware leveraging low-power Bluetooth connections to push relevant messages to smartphones nearby — are becoming the next evolution of the hypertargeting trend. While geofences generally are based on zip codes or city blocks, beacons know exactly where smartphone users are located, based on their proximity to the hardware.

Today's smartphones can function almost as a "digital sixth sense" if they take full advantage of their myriad inputs and sensors, such as camera, GPS, accelerometer and more, according to Dudley Fetzer, senior director of business development for Qualcomm Retail, which makes beacons that cost between $10 and $20, or as little as $5 for a portable version.

"The challenge of social media is making the content important to the audience," notes Michelle Barna, director of social media communications for digital marketing agency DeepFocus, "so contextual awareness is a good complement."

The Miami Dolphins football organization is using beacon technology in its stadium to elevate the experience for gameday fans. Those who have opted-in to receive messages from the organization get a prompt that the game is starting if they linger too long tailgating in the parking lot — but the system is smart enough not to blast that message to fans who've already entered the stadium, notes Fetzer. Once the game is underway, the organization can push out service-enhancing notifications, such as messages alerting fans waiting on long concessions lines for beer that a shorter queue is close by.

"If you surprise and delight, you can change the consumer sentiment," explains Barna. People generally turn to Twitter when they're angry to rant about their negative experiences, so brands that give their followers something good to tweet about (getting your beer faster? Sweeeeeet) stand to gain more than goodwill.

Retailers can engender even greater goodwill by leveraging beacons to help shoppers navigate large brick-and-mortar facilities, notes Fetzer, and improve the store experience.

Companies naturally will want to be cautious of sending out too many notifications and can leverage technical controls to prevent against bombarding consumers with a plethora of unwanted messages. After all, everything in moderation, cautions Barna of brands too eager to jump on the bandwagon. "Hypertargeting is like salt: you don't want to overdo it."

Turning Pinterest into profits
Pinterest, which will be just three years old in March, is proving to be an increasingly valuable tool for brand marketers. According to Tailwind, a Pinterest analytics and marketing platform, Pinterest drives 14 times more referrals than Twitter and 12.5 times more than Faceboook. The average order value of sales resulting from Pinterest visits stands at $179, considerably higher than its more established social peers: $80 for Facebook and $69 for Twitter. What's more, Pinterest AOV has jumped 80 percent over the past two years.

Part of Pinterest's appeal lies in the lengthy shelf life of its content. While Twitter is the most ephemeral of the social platforms, with the average tweet relevant for a mere 25 minutes, a pin generally endures for one week or longer, according to Daniel Maloney, Tailwind CEO. Much like YouTube, "Pinterest actively tries to recirculate you to other pinned content," he explains. "Twitter and Facebook are more about the now, while Pinterest is about the long term.

"Is the content you post now going to be relevant in six months?" he continues.

"Rich" pins now provide greater detail about the content being posted, including, for example, the product price, and enabling users to receive an alert if the price drops.

Tailwind's recently launched Discover for Pinterest tool helps retailers understand what kind of content is popular with users and reveals useful insights such as which celebrities are trending and brands are being talked about most so that marketers can create appropriate tie-ins.

The tool also aids in ferreting out influential users who can help disseminate a brand message. But Maloney notes that each influencer should be evaluated carefully; while some have large followings, the bulk of their fans might follow just one or two of their boards — which may or may not be relevant to the brand.

Even though many retailers think about their holiday strategy year-round, most begin their promotional activity in the few weeks leading up to Christmas. Yet Tailwind's data reveals that Pinterest users' activity around the term "Christmas" seriously ramps up in October, and in fact the optimal time for brands to begin pinning relevant holiday content is actually as early as August or September — due to the lifespan on content on the platform, according to Maloney.

Retailers should commit to a year-round strategy on Pinterest so they're prepared to begin actively marketing for the holidays when September rolls around, instead of suddenly appearing on the platform in November and expecting to attract enough followers in so short a time to make a measurable difference in holiday season, says Maloney.

UGC drives sales
Some brands are turning to platforms such as Olapic, which brings user-generated content such as a photos onto e-commerce platforms, to nudge the consumer on her path to purchase. Implemented by brands such as Calvin Klein, Olapic increases conversion rates by 7 percent and helps to drive up average order values, too, especially when user photos are featured on a product page. "People love seeing how other people are wearing and styling things," says Zoe Neuschatz, Olapic's director of brand strategy and partnerships. "It's peer confirmation that that style is good."

While UGC is mostly being used on e-commerce pages, user photos can be a valuable tool to combat cart abandonment. Retailers already sending out email promotions to shoppers who have left behind items in their online shopping carts could create an even more compelling call-to-action by dropping in a photo of a shopper wearing one of the desired products, for example.

Lolly Wolly Doodle, which built its children's clothing business entirely on Facebook before recently launching its own e-commerce site, is bothered by the decline in organic marketing reach on the world's largest social platform. "We're paying for [reach] and it's costing us more," says Andrea Daney, director of digital marketing for the children's wear brand. "The days of just posting and going viral are gone."

At the Hudson's Bay flagship department store in Vancouver, a digital display wall brings customer content into the store experience, says Mark Curtis, CEO of Branderati, which works with the retailer. The department store encourages shoppers to snap photos of themselves trying on shoes and to hashtag the pictures so that they show up in the social stream on the display wall.
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