Posts Tagged Social Media

Social Commerce & Augmented Reality, Boon to eCommerce

Forrester’s article very recently published, Social Media Still Very Nascent – Adoption And Adaptation Challenges For Organizations, is so true. When I look at e-commerce today from the perspective of Social Media, the opportunity  is infinite and not just restricted to a page as the only engagement mode for update, offers & review. In this era of Social Media or Web 2.0, out-of-the-box thinking has no limits, with the option what Google +, Facebook or Twitter could throw with their new Application Programming Interface and the new features which they introduce, make it only more favorable for the marketer to explore, expedite & experience.

The well-known fact on engaging with consumers is co-exist where they are, imbibe in their activity & feeds, associate with their community and groups. Today, there are many leading ERP companies which build their platforms in the CRM area using the essence of social media, popularly known as Social CRM, these can track customers on social media or in simpler terms they are very synonymous to Social Media Monitoring. However, this is too narrow an interpretation, as Social CRM also includes customer communities managed by the organization themselves.

While I was looking for Social Media Platforms used in e-commerce, I came across a technology ‘commerce edge’ of Infosys, which is a Social Commerce Platform, on SaaS model and delivers, what could be the differentiation among the competition. This could be just a start in exploring social media from creation of buzz to inducing buy through new ways of group gifting, co-shopping, Interacting with your friend to review product and so on. Basically, drifting the shopping experience more towards the real world. Countries where the myths overrule the benefits of e-commerce, these technologies come as a boon in changing the perception, and also acting as a double-edged sword with the benefit loaded messaging in campaigns as the value proposition. The other way to think about this would be enhancing the opportunity base by creating new access for new set of shoppers.

The other technology, which dives deep in making the e-commerce closer to the real world is Augmented Reality. Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or an indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. By contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one.(Source –  Augmented Reality on Freebase, licensed under CC-BY ).

As mobile devices today are going through a phase of invention, innovation & induction, shoppers’ buying behavior is varying through the process of adoption & adaptation. Today the brands are just not restricted to brick & mortar modes of advertisement to reach the consumers, thanks to the mobile devices becoming smarter, sleeker, handy and a personal device,  facilitating insights at the finger tips, making them dependent on their favorite application to  move them through the decision value chain. This is where Augmented Reality, plays it’s trick, enabling shopper to visualize, evaluate & decide on to the options.

With this technology, a shopper could use his/ her mobile device to visualize his product under evaluation on to him/her (in case of Apparel) or on wall (in case of display) or on floor (in case of furniture) and so on. This would not only bring in the conviction but could add an edge over the real world in case of products like consumer durable, furniture, display pieces and so on.

Augmented Reality & Social Media is a big boon to the e-commerce world in bringing in the real world experience.

A Video on Augmented Reality


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Viral Demand Gen Engine

Couple of years of back nobody could have even thought how Web 2.0 would sweep through everyone’s life, to become the Numero-Uno. There are appealing statistics which comprehend the fact of visit an individual would make during a day, which reinstate the position.

The rate at which this methodology has precipitated into the ecosystem is quite commendable and what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg, where the way players are exploring, beneficiaries experimenting and end users relishing the engagement are just the right things at the right place. When we look at the players today they use Create, innovate and embed as their drivers for exploration.

Networking is never been so intrinsic, where engagement being more extrinsic it leads to roots which go on to develop applications, widgets, feedback mechanism, share, likes, streams, +1 and status updates. Social Media today has become the face for their respective brands, more importantly the interactive one, which no doubt comforts the consumer and also benefits by providing the right kind of feedbacks, inputs and updates leading towards service / product optimization & in some cases a new product idea. As we all know Dell has been heavily working on the social media tactic  to use thousand and odd status update to shortlist few best ideas, which finally go to make some of the successful Dell products.

Never the less, Web 2.0 is been a true revolutionary for marketers and the best to happen for any Brand, in terms of adding a face, connecting with prospects and consumer but on other hand it poses challenges on engaging with the fans (prospects & Consumers), extent of insights and last but not the least, the most dreaded of all the issues, handling demanding, unsatisfied consumers who could derail the engagement with negative updates and comments. Among the reputed brands there are some which use the later as a model to resolve problems of the customers and also channel for service & support.

If I would have to think, how Web 2.0 would be in the coming days,  it could be like the hosted services of the leading enterprise products, where every individual has their own page which has all their information on an application which would give insights on their skill up gradation, finances, Career and so on. In fact there are android applications which are getting developed to control house hold appliances through the mobile, which could be synced to it. Thereby making the social networking site the most used and depended site.

Social Media today is an evolving strategy towards engaging customers, virtual product visualization and the most important where every brand would like to use such an optimized, targeted, measurable, seamless methodology to run a viral demand gen engine, which helps them to generate a fully matured lead which has been influenced, informed and  endorsed.

The Viral Demand Gen Engine works on an integrated model of Engagement and Virtual Product Visualization engine, powering the viral through engaging fans (prospects & consumers) either in view of product conceptualization, optimization, improvisation, development or even to the extent of sampling & testing. The model gets more appreciated when these insights are used to reach the targeted audience through blog sphere and for deeper pockets, micro blogging (in the form of mobile apps eg twitter). The strength here is it could be in terms of consumer endorsements, which is powerful than any other media, which is one of the KPI in all the reputed companies. Or the combination of different web application, widgets and blogging to create a good appealing visualization. Exhibit 1 Below demonstrates the Viral demand Gen Engine.

Exhibit 1- Demand Gen Engine


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What is your retail footprint strategy going to be?

The retail industry today have grown up the growth matrix, fairly well, categorizing themselves in two broad buckets of the BCG Model (Boston consulting Group) i.e. cash cow and dogs. The once who were in the quadrants of Niche and Visionaries moved into the state of leaders today, reaped through the benefits of the first mover advantage  and expanding themselves in leaps and bounds.

The changing market dynamics also went in their favors, both in terms of the consumption pattern and disposable income. While some argue that recession depleted the disposable income with compromising consumption pattern, some used this in their sides, through negotiation on the rentals and various input costs into long term contracts, which marked up their margin, boasting the profitability of the retail outlet. This not only helped visionaries and niche player to increase their presence in terms of square feet but also made them venture into new formats, as a part of the expansion drive.

When we look at the Tier one cities today there is a burst in the retail format, every suburb today would boast on minimum of two formats and when cumulated to the city, we would question on the footprints. This has shown growth in the capacity matching demands of different consumption pattern, in developing the formats from creating landmarks to multi brand outlets to niche to entertainment destination, in addressing wide spectrum. These trends are leading every retailer today to an edge, where they would like to boast on the footprints, and get maximum eyeballs for their advertisers.

Shopper AmbassadorBlend Emotions to create association– The crux is not to bring in an USP for the format to draw the attention, but to bring in an attribute of association in the eyes of the consumers, a sense of they being brand ambassador, would make a difference. The most commonly adopted technique, which is done to death, is having a road show or promotional events in the common arena of the space, which ends up as a nuisance for the shopper. These would have to go beyond just the in store entertainment to level where in the shopper feels comfortable and binds a sense of association with the store. The best example to this would be having a CSR touch, where we go beyond the collection drive; have few volunteers from the shoppers to the sponsored NGO or activities where shopper are involved with the beneficiaries directly.


Bring in more of a personal touch for the shopper when he is in the retail outlet. Usually we see a consumer once he enters the arena feels lost, reasons could be, one he doesn’t find what he is looking and two, nobody to guide him. In both these case a retailer would answer that they have people around, but most of the time these people are not themselves aware on the assortments.

  • What would be required are customer engagement people who smartly interact with the customer, when they enter and depart, this gives such a nice feeling about the store.
  • If it is a chain, there should be uniformity in store design, service levels and customer engagement; usually these are negated by the retailers. This brings in a lot of difference in the customer experience.

This would help them not only to gain the confidence but would bring in a new wave of associating with the consumers.

The community driver –Focal to your retail format- The trend usually followed in the retailing is more of a push formula, which is driven by the marketing calendar and sales figures. This paradigm shift needs to happen from the push to pull, which has a farfetched impact in creating a strong loyalty. The retail brand today just can’t fill it’s appetite of footprints through Multi-Brand and Multi-category, which would be a very short termed strategy, to be a winner in the long term they would have to gain confidence of the consumers, through a community with the focal point of its brand.

This would mean going beyond the normal way of associating with the consumer to create a platform, where in consumer would interact with the brand, network with fellow shoppers, and express their taste creating an ecosystem which is conducive for both retailer and shopper. This would create a strong bonding and also lead to process improvisation and build a shopper friendly retail. The entire essence is to bring in prominence for the shopper. The platform would be a face to the outlet and channel of communication, the loyalty program could revolve around this platform. The other benefit which could come out is that retail being the focal point shoppers might use it as a medium to network and meet their fellow shoppers at the outlet.

The Influencers- spokesperson among the shoppers -This would open a new Pandora box in the footprint strategy, where influencers among the shoppers could be identified who could help in promotions and are the spokesperson in their network of social networking site which is like hitting the gold mine and has greater precision than the advertising. The methodology would help in creating spokesperson to influence their community and to comprehend the fact is the way today we are closely hooked to social networking site, to share, hear and review. The challenge here would be how creative we could become to efficiently drive our messaging through and fro with these guys in the most subtle manner, keeping the focal point around the retail and outlet as a vehicle to meet physically.

Localization – bringing the local flavor into the city>suburb>locality strategy- The retail industry would have to go through more refinement then what we are seeing now. The science has just started and it would need more and more people to jump in to reform it. The methodology, as pointed out earlier in this paper, which is followed as a trend today is generic where in the drive comes from the retail marketing calendar, which is more of a push then a pull. This would have to be reversed to create the need what we are looking. No doubt today all format of the same flagship operates in the same way across the nationwide presence, which negates the regional flavor in terms of fads, styles and taste. If these would have to change, then every retail flagship would have to treat each of their city and its suburb stores as SBU. Bringing in the region based flavors & preference, which should also reflect in their merchandise apart from promotions and advertisement. Stressing on market research, customer segmentation, buying pattern & consumption study in relation to the growing disposable income with type of viewership in terms of entertainment options, which translates into types of category could be brought in the subtle way which might become the prime consumption pattern in the future. To give an example, a retail format could strategies their merchandise into different buckets such as fads, local flavors, looked upon merchandise, promotional stuff and so on. In turn we would see a dramatic shift in the loyalties among the consumers. Also it would make a lot of sense to have a regional partner while running the store, in a hybrid franchise model, which would change the industry looks and also would improve the supply chain.

Customer Engagement Model is the key in retaining the customers, which many retailers fail to understand and end up in push formula, but increasing competition in format, retailers would have to think on their Retail Footprint Strategy.

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