At the recent Giftware Association AGM, social media and digital commerce expert Warren Knight, founder and CEO of Gloople, told the audience about the importance of integrating social media into their businesses and what they needed to be able to start transacting online.
Social commerce – sales generated via social media – is set to generate $30 billion by 2015, so if you still haven’t got your head around it but want a slice of this massive pie, don’t waste anymore time sorting yourself out online.
Warren began in retail with a clothing distribution company over 20 years ago. He moved on to work with a factory in China that produced accessories and sold their global Disney licence to 40 countries around the world, raising the turnover from $5m to $30m in three years.
“Back in 2007 I started to understand social media and how important it is for businesses. But I realised that to get the corporate brands that I knew to know social media was going to be a slow-moving process. So I decided to come back to my original world of SMEs and really get to understand how I can get to share social media.”
With money from a Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), Gloople was able to transform its business from being an e-commerce platform, charging customers between £3,000 and £12,000, into a subscription-based model. At the first level it enables small businesses – completely free of charge – to build their online store and sell from it.
“We want certainty when we book something online: when we pay for something we want to know exactly what we are getting and what we are paying for. What we have done inside of Gloople is build it as a complete one-stop shop.”
Warren detailed all the “baked in” elements that businesses needed to be able to trade online – from payment gateway, accounting, email marketing, SEO, analytics and product feeds to shopping comparison sites and marketplaces like eBay, Amazon and play.com. “Everything any online business needs to be successful for one price of £59.”
It was predicted that 50 per cent of future web sales would come through “some sort of action or reaction to a recommendation within social media”, said Warren. “So if you are not using social media at the moment, think how you can.”
But he warned: “One of the biggest reasons that customers and consumers will leave your Facebook page or your Twitter page is because all you do is talk about your business. Talk around the business; add value to that community – 20 per cent talk about the business; 80 per cent talk about how you can add value to your customers. Rethink how you engage with them online.”
For those looking to “make the jump into social media”, the free HootSuite tool enabled messages to be sent across multiple social networks at times scheduled by the user. The system could also be employed to keep abreast of what competitors were saying.
And for anyone thinking about building a new website to enable customers to find their business across multiple devices, Responsive web design was adapted for evolving browsing habits.
Giving members his social media top tips, Warren said it was important for a business to find out where its target audience “hung out” and to rethink how it could get better coverage. One billion people worldwide use Facebook, 75 per cent of whom have ‘liked’ a brand. As 90 per cent of consumers trust peer-to-peer recommendation the marketing and sales opportunities offered by this platform are clear, especially as 79% of fans are more likely to buy from a brand that engages with customers online.
Twitter, meanwhile, sends out 14 million tweets every three days, while Linkedin hosts around 1 billion endorsements and offers fantastic networking groups and the chance to raise your profile with the right people.
A relatively new kid on the block is Google +, which has 350 million users and offers great benefits in terms of search engine optimisation within the world’s largest search engine. Pinterest is also important for brand owners and designers, helping to generate as much as 47 per cent of new sales for brands. This is the fastest-growing social network and is great for Google search rankings.
Warren continued: “The key is that you keep brand consistency. So many companies who have a website they built three years ago have redefined their proposition. They go on to Twitter and talk about this business that doesn’t reflect what the website says: the images are slightly different.
“Always collect new followers – they are going to be brand advocates that talk about your business to their friends, both online and offline. I started with zero and now have 30,000.”
And on the subject of social media ‘curation’, it was possible for these followers to share something by retweeting and changing key words to make a message specific to their target audience and achieve the best click-through rates.
Users should also endeavour to add context around their businesses.
Warren concluded: “If you do all of these things you will not only build confidence within your business but also with your online customers. Adding value and sharing information will want to make those brand advocates want to go and share that information with their friends. That’s the power of social media. If you do all of these things you will have a happy business and happy customers.”