Social may seem like an interloper at the search party, but it actually brings the party, say the presenters of "The Psychology of Social Commerce" session at SES New York.
As far as 66 percent of shoppers are concerned, social networks are the first place to start searching when considering a product to buy, says Dana Todd, senior vice president of marketing and business development at Chicago-based SEM firm Performics. Additionally, 87 percent of consumers check shopping sites, and 70 percent stop in at deal sites occasionally or frequently at the beginning of a product search, Todd says, citing 2011 Performics & ROI Research, "Social Shopping Study: Participant Behaviors & Preferences on Social, Shopping and Deal Sites." The study also shows that 60 percent of consumers seeking input on social networks prior to finalizing a purchase say they will "wait up to 10 minutes for advice before proceeding."
For that matter, Google adding the "+1" of friends' preferences to searchers' results has reached "the point that I actually think a lot of the results suck now," says Michael Mothner, founder and CEO of El Segundo, Calif.-based search engine marketing firm Wpromote.
For instance, Mothner got somewhat Rickrolled when he searched for Las Vegas, the city, and the first result that came up was for tech blogger Robert Scoble. Mothner says the Scoble result had nothing to do with Vegas, but it had everything to do with the fact that Scoble is in one of Mothner's circles on Google+.
"This is having an effect on SEO ranking and PPC costs," Mothner says. For instance, if Mothner expresses his approval of a product and his friend clicks on the link, that means the product will perform better than Google expected of it and the product, in this case Bonobos pants, will start ranking higher. "So this is a really, really powerful thing that's happening," Mothner says.
Here's what marketers should do about it:
1. Add the "+1" button and other social network approval and sharing buttons to blogs, product pages and more so that they have an effect on search results, Mothner says.
2. Ask happy customers for reviews, Mothner says. Todd adds marketers can make the task easier for shoppers by implementing interactive elements (comments, sharing, reviews) on product pages, indexing the interactions and using online reviews in the store. Also, marketers can double-check the elements themselves to ensure they're working.
3. Publicly respond to unhappy customers, then privately work with them "to make it right." That way, a bad experience can become a good one, Mothner says.
4. In the store, "don't block mobile signals—and ensure mobile search visibility for your site and products," Todd says. Encourage mobile check-ins in the store, too. Allow 2D and 3D barcode scanning, she says.
5. "Participate on social networks, search and shopping engines to foster positive chatter and quickly respond to negative chatter," according to Todd.
6. Create strategies specific to important social networking sites, Todd says:
- Pinterest: Implement a "Pin It" button to brand product pages (all or prioritized selection) and create brand-owned style boards;
- Purchlive: Turn product feeds into Polyvore-like pinboards that you customize and own on your site. Measures shopping journeys for merchandising intelligence;
- RNKD: Loyalty shopping programs, rewards shoppers by pre-determined levels of engagement and encouraging cross-device activities; and
- Polyvore: Encourage user creation and sharing of style collages for promotional or campaign-specific initiatives.