BIMS keynote and best-selling author Matt Bailey has long promoted the importance of activating your "loyalists" by giving them a succinct message to spread. ("Loyalists breed more loyalists," he has said.) If they are to become your social media promoters, then "a simpler message will make word of mouth easier." He once pointed to an example where the benefits messaging needed to change because it was too scientific; it needed more human interest. "Try to see your marketing through your customers' eyes."
The value of Bailey's advice rings even louder after looking at findings of a recent Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults to determine their online shopping and e-commerce preferences. Although these findings are mostly B2C, they still provide a strong indication of today's buying habits.
Here are some of the Pew survey findings and my corresponding takeaways:
When buying something for the first time, more than eight-in-ten Americans (84%) say it is important to be able to ask questions about what they are buying or to buy from sellers they are familiar with. I'm often checking around to member websites and once in a while a box pops up for an instant chat. I've used them for travel sites, and they're very comforting.
Takeaway: Have a customer service person for your site available to answer any questions.
Roughly half (51%) of Americans report making online purchases using their cellphones, and 28% shop online a few times a month. Other surveys say that people will leave a site if it doesn't load quickly. This one is pretty obvious.
Takeaway: Be as mobile friendly as you can.
Before purchasing an item, more than seven-in-ten Americans think it is important to get advice from people they know (77%) or read reviews posted online by others who have purchased the item (74%). Bailey encourages publishers to develop referral marketing as part of an overall customer investment program that rewards and develops your best customers and subscribers. "I'm kind of teaching them how to sell me better. I'm training them," he said. "How can I develop my best [subscribers] into being my best sales people? Developing programs, communication, developing those relationships to be deeper, more reliable, more valuable to that subscriber as well as to the business. You can't argue with the numbers about referral marketing—you have a higher close rate. You can't ignore the power of it."
Takeaway: Develop a referral program.
Almost four-in-ten Americans (39%) have shared their experiences or feelings about a commercial transaction on social media platforms. So think what more encouragement can do from positive experiences with you. And 15% have bought something by following a link on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter.
Takeaway: Don't give up on social media. Just focus on where your customers are.
Fully 82% of U.S. adults say they at least sometimes read online customer ratings or reviews before purchasing items for the first time, including 40% who say they always or almost always do so. Sometimes all it takes is a request for your best customers to write something nice or tell their colleagues. I just saw numbers for a recent big event, and 26% said they came based on a colleague's recommendation. That's impressive and might be without the organizer even asking for those recommendations.
Takeaway: Take more advantage of your loyalists. Encourage reviews and testimonials.
Many Americans watch online videos to help them with purchasing decisions: 55% of U.S. adults say they have watched product review videos online. Product review videos are also more common among those under 50 than among those 50 and older (68% vs. 41%) and more common among men than among women (62% vs. 50%). But these numbers will only keep growing.
Takeaway: Post more video in 2017.