Getting exposure in eCommerce is not as easy as it might seem in the beginning. It is a process that needs a lot of thought, good decisions, and careful planning. Expanding reach is a process that requires great ingenuity if you are looking to make a great impact on the market, and no tool is insignificant when it comes to potential augmentations of this process.
There are various ways to actually expand and become more popular, and many businesses use the most common ones. What makes a difference between good and great is the ability to look beyond the regular and widely accepted techniques and to come up with something that will give you the edge over your competition. Big brands know how to do it, and they have all the means to achieve it, as their budgets are usually loaded with marketing bound money, but what should a smaller company do?
The answer is not too simple, but there is a way to progress from the standstill, even if you can’t afford celebrities to endorse you and enter the market with all guns blazing.
The key is in brand advocate approach. With this approach, your customers become your brand advocates and they help you reach more customers without yourself being too involved into the process. That only adds to the credibility of the entire effort, as the customers are more likely to trust other customers than the company trying to sell to them. This approach also reinforces the brand name and helps your company not only reach more people, but reach them with already positive opinion.
The three main segments of brand advocating are:
• Organic reach
• Viral reach
• 3rd party enabled reach
The first and the most important can be defined as the organic reach in brand advocate approach. This is the approach in which the customers who already bought your products advocate them to the people they actually know. This includes not only word to mouth, but can be further amplified with all sorts of tricks you can employ. Of course, these “tricks” are nothing shady or forbidden. Actually, most of the elements that allow this are already present in your campaigns. The only thing that needs to be done is to give your customers an option to actually use the options you gave them.
The most common way of the direct or organic brand advocating involves simple word to mouth. If your product is really good, and the customer is really happy about it, they can and will let their friends know about it. Of course, there is no trick in this at all, but with a bit of imagination, it can be quite lucrative option.
You have the possibility to use promo codes on your website if the web development has been done properly. Using those promo codes in classic marketing campaigns is more than welcome, but you can use those codes to actually reach new customers in a bit different way. If you make creating a shoppers account mandatory for using promo codes, and give those codes to the customers who bought on your website, but not as presents for them but instead as gift vouchers, you can be certain that a portion of those will bring you some new customers. Of course, you should run this option as a permanent campaign. This will generate a constant influx of new customers, and through word to mouth, your brand will reach people faster than ever before.
Loyalty programs are also a great option for this. Similarly to the aforementioned method, you could define a reward system that will allow your customers to accumulate points for purchases, and monetize those points through discounts and free items. Now, it is possible to make these free items available as gifts, with unique codes. Each of these unique codes could be sent to anyone who doesn’t already have an account on your website, and everything they would need to do is to register, and claim their reward. In this way, even people who never really had the intention to buy on your website will be involved, and many of them will actually turn into regular customers. In this way, by giving a little, you will be able to get a lot! This way of customer loyalty management will also increase general customer retention. All these factors will only positively influence your reach, your conversions, brand authority, and finally – profitability of your business.
Occasional email marketing campaigns offering discounts for first purchases should be combined with everything we already mentioned. As these email campaigns are being sent to your own customer base, if they have the ability to share this information and those benefits with their friends, they will do it, and it will again reflect positively on everything you have been doing.
Important thing to remember here is that the word to mouth is the most effective and most reliable way of expanding the reach of your brand and that this segment is of a paramount importance if you really wish to succeed. The best way to get a good word to mouth exposure is to provide top level service, and this has to be more than just delivering good quality products. It also means that you need to deliver the orders in a timely manner, make sure that the customers can use the payment option they prefer, and to get the best possible customer support when it comes to all possible queries.
Differently from organic reach in brand advocate approach, the viral reach does not mean that there will be a lot of sales generated through this channel directly.
Generally, the viral reach is based on social media and web presence. In this category, impartial external reviews and social media reach are the most important things.
Concerning the external reviews, the things are pretty simple. Your customers are able to leave reviews of your goods and services on various external websites and forums, and that will definitely give other users of those media the chance to get acquainted with your brand. As these comments and reviews mostly come from strangers, the potential customers are less prone to trusting them than in classic word to mouth situation. Still, the brand name gets mentioned, and if the context is positive, these people will have a positive bias during the first actual interaction with your brand.
The other, more important segment lies in social media. Social media networks are slowly becoming bread and butter of eCommerce, and paying due attention to them is something that really can produce rewards beyond measure.
Brand advocate approach in this segment includes all of the standard social media strategies, but also with a small “twist” to regular approaches. First of all, it is important to determine which social media is the best focal point for your campaigns. Running B2B operations via Facebook or Twitter will have little effect. Simply, those platforms are mostly user oriented and they lack the capacity to interact with businesses in a proper way. On the other hand, LinkedIn is perfect for this but will give little to no results in B2C segment.
After you have identified the social media platform, you should pay attention to 2 very important things: group discussion presence, and page reach.
Page reach or in case of Twitter, profile reach can be really hard to build. With startups, people always have trouble expanding their audience. Still, it is possible to do it through paid advertising campaigns. Each social media has the option for expanding the page followers’ base through paid traffic, and you definitely should reach for that as it will improve the virtual reach of your brand.
This means that if your content is engaging enough, some of the followers will actually share what you post. This is especially obvious when you are announcing discounts or seasonal sales of any kind. These people might not be interested in purchases themselves, but if you are offering something that might interest their friends or followers on social media, they will definitely share the information, and in this way, your reach will extend to the people you most probably wouldn’t reach through other means.
Finally, by applying group sharing strategy, you can add a lot more to the viral reach. Simply, if your social media management is good, the people involved in running your accounts will join certain groups that gather people who share certain interests. If your page posts get published there, there is a good chance that a lot of the group audience will be able to see it, and that at least some of them will share it further.
Important thing to remember is that the viral reach is not converting too much. If you are a brand that is new to the market, you will need all the weapons from the brand reputation building arsenal to slowly convert viral reach into organic, but it will happen eventually, through people who actually make purchases.
3rd party enabled reach:
The final and the most innovative way to expand the reach is through third party services. These services are still rather new on the market and there are not many companies providing those options, but it slowly becomes an important thing in the world of eCommerce.
This method has additional benefits to it, as it does not simply expand the reach but also heavily advocates for your brand.
Its roots are in ratings and reviews systems that are present on the market for some time now. These systems are widely spread and almost omnipresent in the eCommerce. Every single successful retailer relies on those for building brand authority, but many of these platforms are evolving quite rapidly lately, and they add features that turn them into something quite different and much more advanced than it was the case until recently.
These ratings and reviews platforms started adding features that enable customers to create reviews that are far stronger than ever before. Instead of the metrics and written reviews, which have been used for ages now, they add the advanced features that turn these platforms into full scale multimedia brand advocating tools.
Some of the features include taking pictures of actual items on the very customers, as well as easy automatic broadcasting of such features on social media and specialized websites. This means that the end user has all the tools to explain every single detail and to back the explanations with actual pictures or footages.
One picture is stronger than thousand words, and this approach makes sure that the potentially interested parties see not only what previous customers had to say, but also to see the end result of the purchase. This takes subjectivity out of the equation as the interested parties can see the objective results and pair them with the subjective feeling of the customer. The final result is a level of trust in the purchase that couldn’t be possibly reached through any other means.
To summarize, brand advocate approach is definitely a lifeline for smaller retailers who are looking to survive in the extremely competitive world of eCommerce. These brand advocates are the means to expand the reach and establish your brand, and should be treated with utmost care. Of course, there are numerous ways to enforce these operations, and it is only up to you and your ingenuity to find the loopholes and spaces to push your brand and gain advantage wherever possible. We at Studioworx have some significant experience with it, and we will be more than happy to consult you or execute these strategies for you. Feel free to give us a call at any time.