How can FMCGs engage their consumers socially?
With Twitter testing its buy button, in what other ways can FMCG brands use Social to connect with customers, asks Jo Coombs, Managing Director for OgilvyOne Worldwide, who here explores why Twitter's 'buy' button represents a significant moment in the evolution of Social Media.
While consumers have used Social as a mainstream activity for years now, brands have often struggled to prove meaningful engagement. Often this has been as simple as poor measurement. Because Social largely happens on smartphones, most conversion to purchase happens in another channel. Nobody wants to have to fill a form to buy something on a small screen, when you can wait until later to use a desktop or pop into a shop.
Twitter's buy button promises to change that, not just by improving measurement, but by making it easy to buy things on impulse. Add in Facebook's buy button, integration of Apply Pay with Social and WeChat's integrated payment, and it's clear that Social selling is on the verge of taking off.
However Social's value isn't just in direct sales. It has value at any point in customer journeys where relationships matter. Social relationships are central to our lives, and by extension to how we market and build businesses. It's the oldest marketing finding around that the biggest influences on us are our peers, friends and family.
For FMCG brands there is a particular opportunity to have a more intimate relationship with their consumers, and to use data from Social to understand them in more depth than was traditionally possible. However because this is a new opportunity, FMCG brands have often struggled to create meaningful engagement.
To understand this challenge better OgilvyOne established the Social Value Benchmark - a process to assess companies' Social activities against their direct competitors based on public information, and to allow comparisons between categories.
Assessed on 850 datapoints for FMCG, and 4,087 datapoints more broadly, this research had some surprising findings:
- Social is most actively used by FMCG companies in the early stages of customer journeys with a score of 49% at the awareness stage falling to 7% at the point of purchase. Social is still implicitly seen as a broadcast medium, and so is used relatively traditionally by most marketers, rather than as an opportunity to develop two way dialogues with their consumers. While content matters, it's far more powerful if it is improved with personal data or Social context. Tripadvisor does this brilliantly for travel - showing you which of your friends have been to each location, what they did, where they stayed and what they thought about it. Tripadvisor realise that while reviews are crucial to purchasing decisions, they are far more interesting if they come from a friend.
- FMCG brands have significant room for improvement, with an average score of 25% across the customer journey.
- Many companies are reluctant to leave the Social 'safe zone' and engage with customers outside their owned social channels. Unless a company has had a very successful programme of engaging its customers, the vast majority of them are likely to be found outside its owned channels, so this both misses significant opportunities to increase reach and fails to be customer centric.
- Sampling is surprisingly neglected given its potential value and the costs of alternative routes. A rare example of a company that does this well is Innocent Smoothies - who consistently encourage their Social followers to try samples and to experiment with new ways of using their products such as creating smoothie ice lollies.
- Social loyalty and advocacy are particularly neglected with average scores of 18% and 16% respectively. Many organisations simply don't have any plan to engage their customers in Social after purchase. PG Tips are an interesting example of a brand experimenting here - with a Facebook loyalty programme that is well integrated with their packaging and an email CRM programme. Packaging can be a powerful way to get consumers to understand your brand more deeply. For instance if you have a coffee brand that happens to be Fairtrade, then packaging can connect your consumers to Social channels where they can directly talk to the farmers who make your coffee.
But that's not where the study stopped. The implications for digital marketers, it suggests, are that:
- Marketers must start every Social strategy from their business strategy, rather than a Social channel. 'What can we do on Facebook?' is essentially a meaningless question compared to questions like 'How do we use Social to drive advocacy from satisfied customers?' or 'Which parts of our customer journey are our customers active in Social?'.
- Analytics need to focus more on stages of the customer journey, and less on the metrics that Social networks provide. While FMCG brands will often struggle to measure whether somebody who interacts through Social then goes on to buy their product again, they can measure if they were satisfied, and at a channel level resulting sampling, advocacy and website traffic.
- Content should be optimised to a purpose such as sampling, or advocacy, rather than Social platform metrics like ReTweets. Once great content has been created it needs to be distributed where customers are spending their time, whether through smart influencer strategies, highly targeted media buys or partnerships.
- Brands shouldn't be afraid to join Social conversations when appropriate. If a consumer is discussing your brand, your competitor or category, they will often be keen to get information from you. Even better if this is from a third party, such as a product review.
- Social can drive much more value from CRM programmes, and vice versa. Social can provide proof that a product is popular (through numbers of fans, and sometimes showing that a consumer's friends are fans too), generate reviews and show that a brand has a human side. CRM systems, even at the most basic, can help drive audience growth in Social channels - and are a key component in converting latent interest that arises in Social into purchasing or sampling. At the most simple level Twitter's Lead Generation card option gives FMCG brands a way to convert followers into email addresses.
- Very few brands are prompting their consumers to advocacy or operating a formal advocacy programme, for instance by driving consumers to review their products on retail websites. The company's previous research on Global Passion Brands showed that there is often a huge disconnect between latent customer satisfaction and active advocacy. At its simplest brands should be asking for more feedback from their customers, and then boosting the visibility of this feedback. Hotels and restaurants have a lot to teach other categories in this regard.
"Social is bringing FMCG brands closer to their consumers, and allowing them to have a more personal relationship than ever. We can now see where and how investment in social is working," concluded Coombs.