By Ashok Patro
Remember being warned against ?strangers? when you were younger? It?s not just a lesson for the youth ? it?s a perfect example of why it?s so hard for new businesses to crack into the market.
Existing competitors, brand familiarity and loyalty, and a general reluctance to try something new if you are relatively satisfied with your current product/service means that consumers can be quite wary of newcomers, especially if they don?t have a connection with the brand or company.
So how would you make it easier for consumers to trust your brand, moving it out of ?stranger danger? territory? Here?s how you can break the ice and show consumers that your brand can be trusted:
The answer, of course, is to leverage social media. And where this might sound quite obvious, it?s about leveraging it well, which will determine if it?s a boom or complete gloom. It?s essential to use the right combination of platforms and strategies that suits you.
This is especially significant as the Philippines has 38 million Internet users spend an average of 6.2 hours on the Internet through laptops or desktops and an average of 2.8 hours through mobile devices. This therefore makes the Philippines a prime market for the e-commerce industry.
Just how big is social media in the Philippines?
The ?Young Filipinos – E-Commerce? study was conceptualized to demonstrate just how important social media is in the Philippines.
The study discovered that social media is a popular research tool ? youth will engage in social sharing in relation to their own browsing and buying experiences, or raise issues with their customer service experiences on eCommerce platforms.
These opinions and experiences, in turn, were then used by their peers ? prospective buyers, to aid their own decision making process. As is the nature of anything with a ?social? focus, consumers proved to value their peers? opinions, which they found helpful in making informative purchasing decisions.
So what are Filipino youths ?talking about? online?
Driven to quantify exactly what Filipino youth were actually interested in the e-commerce space, we carried out research and analyzed social media chatter on all popular social media platforms in the Philippines including Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, bulletin boards and other news sites.
Our findings revealed that the top 3 online ?conversations? related to:
? Products and services (78 percent)
? Customer care (15 percent); and
? Promotions (4 percent)
1. Products and services
? 52 percent of chatter was related to travel and airlines ? especially via Twitter, which was used to get notifications on promotions and seek assistance with booking issues
? 18 percent was related to entertainment tickets like concert, movie and sporting tickets
? 10 percent were interested in transportation and/or vehicles ? with most conversations mentioning taxi booking apps
2. Customer support
? 75 percent of chatter was around customer service, with almost all of these queries being submitted via Twitter
? Almost 19 percent of the online buzz was in relation to the response time of online stores to their queries
? Almost 3 percent was venting about the customer service they had received
? 38 percent of discussions were about awareness of delivery services and the advantages of online purchases
? 24 percent consumers discussed being actually charged for the delivery of goods they ordered
? 14 percent of consumers were venting about misplaced goods ? that they had ordered but had not been delivered
So how can I actually use this information to help my brand grow?
The results speak for themselves ? social media is clearly a major component in eCommerce. If you haven?t already, it?s time to roll up your sleeves and take to the digital sphere.
Your first step is to adopt a multi-channel approach that provides both in-store and online retail experiences for you to better connect and engage with your customers.
Establish an online presence ? but use the right platforms. Selling something like an interior design service, hand crafted furniture or even unique jewelry and want to focus on ideas, inspiration and creativity? Pinterest or Instagram might be your best bets for creating boards that consolidate your products and showcase your vision.
Additionally, Facebook, being one of the biggest social media sites, can help boost your reach beyond existing customers to potential ones, and makes it easy for users to share content.
Getting yourself onto the right social media platform will help familiarize customers with your brand ? make sure to use your colors, logos and other brand information so consumers can start associating them with you.
Secondly, marketing campaigns and promotional strategies should be ?social media-friendly? ? designed to be optimized across a range of (relevant) social media channels ? short and concise for Twitter, or more visuals for platforms that use images.
Across all platforms, make your content easier to access, share, purchase and review, and while give consumers better access to product information and customer service. Why not reward your customers for sharing their reviews with credits or points as an incentive?
Given the amount of competition in the market, it?s easy for consumers to switch brands and/or providers based on their social media ?interaction? with the brand (which is potentially through other consumers and not with the actual brand itself), and companies need to be aware of just how easy it is for social media to ?make or break? their reputation.
Focus on youth
Given the number of youth online, it?s obvious a clearer focus is needed on the market segment who are defining this change. Youth, who generate the most e-commerce buzz compared to any other age group, should be a key focus of social media campaigns.
Think of how you can tie in your own promotions with other brands that youth are interested in ? if you are an F&B brand you might work with young clothing labels or other youth-focused brands in different industries at a local pop up market to increase exposure and build your reputation (even if it?s just by association). Or sponsor youth-related events and share your involvement through social media ? this gives you the added benefit of reaching the audience od the event organizer, as well.
The possibilities are endless ? and if you consider the number of people who utilize social media to discuss their product/service in the pre- and post-purchase phases, it?s vital that consumers receive the right message about your brand, at the right time.
Can you afford not to use social media in your business?
The author is the chief operations officer of Thoughtbuzz