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IM's Impact on Purchase Decisions

IM's Impact on Purchase Decisions Joe Pilotta

Instant messaging among Hispanics, Whites and African Americans has an effect on purchase decisions for medicine, car/truck, and electronics categories. Findings are from the latest Simultaneous Media Usage Survey (SIMM VI), conducted by BIGresearch, with a sample size of over 14,000 respondents.

As the chart above demonstrates, Hispanics overwhelming outpace Whites and African Americans regarding instant messaging in the medicines and car/truck categories, while Hispanic and African American virtually out distance Whites use of instant messaging for electronic decisions.

Instant messaging with its shortened message structure functions as a “check-in” device with friends and family. The need for confirmation with others quickly creates short term cycles of consumer controlled advertising and may disrupt to long term advertising effects.

However, new technologies allow for the possibility of increased interactive marketing and advertising that can work very effectively during simultaneous media usage.  To demonstrate this point in detail, look for BIGresearch's future articles at iMediaConnection.

How can my brand deliver value that's unique to Facebook?
Delivering value on social networks requires a deep understanding of why your community members are there and what kinds of behaviors they practice. Even not-so-sexy brands can find ways to deeply engage their communities if they can identify the intersection of an online behavior and their product or service offerings.

Staples offers a great example of this on its fan page. The company noticed that users are sometimes tagged in photos they don't like on Facebook. This is a pain-point that Staples transforms into a fun experience through the "I Shred U" application that is embedded in its fan page. The application lets users select an offending photo that they can then send through a variety of Staples shredders and then post to their friends' stream with a custom message and sound. The application also offers users the opportunity to "trick" the photos by adding speech bubbles, additional artwork, and messages. Check out the experience on the fan page

Is there a place for B2B brands on Facebook?
The demographics of Facebook are rapidly evolving, and some of the fastest growing segments are in unexpected areas. For example, Hewlett-Packard's fastest growing community on Facebook is for retired employees. As demographics change, there will be more and more opportunity for B2B brands to develop a presence on Facebook. For the moment, however, those pioneering B2B brands typically have a consumer division. Staples is an example of this. Boca Bearing Co. is another. Its page includes a Twitter feed, videos featuring educational content about bearings, a product catalog with quick links to purchase from the company's site, as well as links to other social content.

In many respects, Boca Bearings has created a hub on Facebook that extends its website onto the platform and aggregates its social efforts. This does offer some value to the community simply by bringing content closer; however, future development might include platform-exclusive promotions or competitions to drive deeper community engagement.

Before pursuing these opportunities, however, brands should consider how they are segmenting their communities. In this case, Boca Bearing is actually serving an "RC Hobbies" community, a "Recreation" community, and its B2B community. Facebook might be a great place to showcase user-generated video content or host a competition based on that content for each one of these communities. But does it make sense to have them all on the same page? There is definitely a small but growing opportunity for B2B brands on Facebook, but they need to focus carefully on these kinds of questions in order to be successful.

What works when launching a presence on Facebook?
There are many different approaches to developing a presence on Facebook, but brands seem to be increasingly coming to the game with a plan to jumpstart their communities through promotional offers. Last year, Intel challenged Sprout to create a new Facebook fan page and application for the company, with the goal of building a significant Intel community on Facebook. The result was a fan page with an embedded application that empowered the community to lower the price on three laptops in advance of Cyber Monday. In less than two weeks, Intel reached hundreds of thousands of people and acquired more than 24,000 new fans.

You don't have to be a giant brand like Intel to do this successfully though. Sprout also worked with a hair products company named Living Proof on a new fan page that helped boost its community from 800 fans to 10,000 fans in just a few months. One of the keys to success was embedding a free sample offer into the homepage experience. Another was an exceptionally clean brand experience that included the company's blog feed, a Twitter feed, direct access to customer service, styling tips, and video content about how the brand's products are made and work. Finally, one of the most engaging elements of the experience is an interactive questionnaire that guides users to the product that is most appropriate for their hair types and styling preferences.

How can my brand leverage competitions and philanthropy?
Many brands have had success leveraging competitions and campaigns that are connected to charitable causes. Recently, Clorox did both with its Clorox Clean-Up "Power a Bright Future" grant campaign. This is another example of a brand that does not seem to be an immediate fit for Facebook, yet the company found a way to deliver value to a community there. The key was to empower fans to help direct five grants of $10,000 back into their communities.

Participants in the contest were asked to submit a photo and a short message about the cause they wanted to fund. A panel of influential children's advocates selected finalists based on the impact of the program on kids, the quality of the entry sent in, and the potential for the grant to help the program grow. After that, the public was given a chance to vote on Facebook for the winners. All voting participants received a Clorox Clean-Up coupon as a thank-you for voting.

Chase is currently running a campaign that takes this approach one step further with its Chase Community Giving program. The experience allows users to vote for as many as 20 local charities for the opportunity to get a slice of a $5 million funding pool. In short, Chase is crowd-sourcing the direction of funds to local charities.

One final note about competitions on Facebook: You'll want to steer clear of competitions that require Facebook actions to participate. Facebook rules make it clear that the network doesn't want to be on the hook for anything that could affect the outcome of a competition. For example, sharing something with friends cannot be a requirement to participate in a competition.

Can it just be about entertainment?
Sometimes the best opportunity for brands online is to simply provide some entertainment and education to their communities. Adobe is another brand that wouldn't seem like a natural fit for Facebook because it has other active community sites where users solve problems and share tips. Last year, however, Adobe created a fun experience for its community that presented fans with a series of images and asked them if they were "real" or "fake" (i.e., manipulated with Adobe's software). If a particular photo had been "faked," a tutorial showed how it had been done.

In this case, Adobe realized there was a community on Facebook that it was not reaching through its other channels -- namely, college students. The company used its Facebook experience to engage these new users and provide them with information about deep discounts that were available to students enrolled in college programs. The mix of fun, education, and promotional information effectively grew the brand's community base to more than 42,000 fans.

The takeaway
There is no shortage of unlikely brands finding success on Facebook by driving brand awareness, lead generation, engagement, and sales. And, as these are still relatively early days, there are still many opportunities for brands to think outside of the box and create new experiences.

In many ways, the biggest challenge is matching a community need against a solution that fits with your brand and into your larger social strategy. Brands that are looking for more inspiration should visit the Facebook Preferred Developer list. Sprout was one of only a handful of companies that launched with this program back in 2009, and there are now almost 50 companies there today.

Roland Smart is senior director of marketing for Sprout.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


Fashion bloggers and beauty vloggers are so hot right now. And Joyus knows it. Joyus has combined the two into a video-meets-social-meets-online-shopping destination. According to its "about" page, Joyus is made up of "a team of fashion, beauty and health experts dedicated to finding the latest tips and best products out there." And that's just it. They scour through products, select the best, and bring to you, the shopper, a full video review including tips and tricks to help you make your shopping decisions. It brings the product to life -- you can see yourself using it.

Instead of hard selling, the experts position themselves as personal shoppers or beauty/fashion/nutrition experts using and buying the products themselves and giving you plenty of advice along the way.


Acquired by Nordstrom in 2011, this online and mobile retailer is certainly changing the way people shop. This site (and app -- more than half of total sales are done via mobile) is based on the concept of flash sales. Each day, Hautelook sends an email invitation to the newest sales events to more than 9 million members across the U.S. and Canada. The events range from men to women to kids, to home and beauty products at 50 to 70 percent off retail.

Since items are limited, while supplies last, here's where things get a little fun -- once you put an item in your cart, you have 15 minutes to make your final decision on it before it becomes available to another shopper.

Recently, they also added a section where members can shop Nordstrom Rack alongside the Hautelook flash sales.


Shopping for home décor online can be tricky. But going into stores and lugging home pillows and tables can be even more daunting. Mack has made the process of shopping for and decorating your home as effortless as possible. Mack leverages one of the hottest trends in e-commerce: clustering (outfits, rooms in a house, etc.). Mack is focused on bundles rather than individual products.

On shopmack.com, you can shop for home décor by room, category, style, and color. Mack also brings shoppers design advice. Much like Hautelook, you can see the designs in your own home.

When shopping by room, for example, Mack displays a large image of a perfectly designed room in a home. Then, the shopper can just hover over an item to see the price, get more info, and add it to the shopping cart.

Warby Parker

Warby Parker is changing the way people shop for eyewear. Warby Parker has set the standard for merging online and real-world commerce while never sacrificing its cool. Warby Parker creates boutique-quality, classically crafted eyewear starting at $95 per pair. How can good quality eyewear be so inexpensive? Warby Parker cuts out the middleman (the high-priced optical retailers) and sells directly to you.

However, buying eyewear online can seem a little scary. You want to try the glasses on and make sure they suit you before purchasing. Warby Parker has solved that by allowing you to choose five frames to try on at no cost (not even shipping!). You then return the sample frames, choose your favorite to purchase on the site, add in your prescription, and voila! New glasses are on their way.

Not only is Warby Parker changing the way people purchase eyewear, it's also changing the world. According to the site, almost one billion people worldwide lack access to glasses. "This means that 15 percent of the global population cannot effectively learn or work -- a problem that Warby Parker is determined to address." The brand has partnered with non-profits to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold by Warby Parker, a pair is distributed to someone in need.

Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research has created a true community for adventurers. Not only is the site aesthetically pleasing, it's also incredibly useful. The shopping process is multi-dimensional and hierarchal -- clothing and gear is organized by category and subsequently filtered by fit, gender, size, special features, sport, or technology.

Like Joyus and Mack, Outdoor Research prominently displays imagery of its outdoor gear in use. Once again, you can see yourself using the products.

Each product includes a plethora of reviews, in-depth descriptions, a list of pros and cons, information on the technology behind the gear, and many times, an accompanying video. You even have the option to purchase from selected online partners to make sure you're getting the best deal possible.


While #AmazonCart isn't technically an e-commerce site, it's Amazon's innovative way to hop right into social selling. Amazon is now making your interactions online into an opportunity to shop.

It's as easy as this: Connect your Twitter account to your Amazon account, reply to any tweet containing an Amazon product link using the #AmazonCart hashtag, and the item will be placed in your cart so you can purchase it later.

These are just a few of the companies that are working to change the way we shop online. The possibilities are endless. Putting the customers first and being where they are will be key in any new and innovative e-commerce experiences.

Lauren Friedman is head of global social business enablement at Adobe Systems.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Unrecognizable woman shopping online using her tablet computer" image via Shutterstock.

Joe Pilotta was Vice President of BIGresearch, and a former professor at Ohio State University, School of Communications. He holds two Ph.D.s from Ohio University (Communication Research) and from University of Toronto (Sociology), Canada. Senior...

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