According to Trendwatching.com, consumers are increasingly tapping into their networks of friends, fans, and followers, to discover, discuss and purchase goods and services, in ever-more sophisticated ways. As a result, it's never been more important for brands to make sure they too have the F-FACTOR.
Purchases -- and business -- have always been social.
By focusing on the "social" part, we have somewhat taken for granted or minized the power of media and networks. The F-FACTOR is being fueled by new tools and platforms available, and by the sheer numbers of people now using and contributing to these tools.
To me, availability is key for brands to build direct relationships with consumers. However, what I often see a brand or business do is focus on the product instead of working on expanding and making the context that sourrounds it more interesting and interactive.
From the report -- a couple of brand-related, F-FACTOR statistics:
- Three quarters of Facebook users have 'Liked' a brand. (Source: AdAge/ Ipsos, February 2011)
- Juicy Couture found that their product purchase conversion rate increased by 160% after installing social sharing features (Source: CreateTheGroup, February 2011)
- Incipio Technologies, a gadget accessory retailer, found that referrals from Facebook had a conversion rate double the average (Source: Business Insider, March 2011)
- But it’s not just about Facebook. Take for example the explosive rise of the daily deal site Groupon, which used referrals from friends and colleagues to drive sales of over 40 million deals in the two and a half years since it launched in November 2008, via email
The F-Factor influences consumer behavior in a number of ways:
- They discover new products and services by relying on their social networks. Even in the real world, we used to read -- rather leaf through and comment on -- fashion magazines with friends. It is more fun to watch trends proposed when you can filter them immediately through the eyes of people you know. Something else that was very common was cutting out images and phrases we liked.
- People will increasingly (and automatically) receive targeted ratings, recommendations and reviews from their social networks. When someone you trust recommends a product or service specifically, that carries a lot more weight. Which is why I am particularly careful about recommending value and quality only after I have experienced them.
Levi's was the first brand to integrate this feature on Facebook.
See the note on privacy for this one.
- People can ask their friends and followers to improve and validate their buying decisions. You have probably seen the tweets or Facebook posts. It's such a natural and social thing to do, to ask your friends -- yes, even the very loose definition for Twitter -- about their take on stuff. Product, services, and also professional opinions, pop up in the stream every day. There is indeed evidence that people are improving the way they present information about purchases due to this use of social networks.
One such example is Quora where people can follow topics and other users, building detailed databases of questions and answers that are tagged and publicly searchable.
You may also recall Diesel in Spain hooked up cameras in their stores to Facebook. Even before the apps were available, I'm pretty sure many have sent shots of outfits or gifts by phone to friends so they could get their immediate/in store feedback.
Have you done that? I have for gifts.
- Shopping is becoming increasingly social, even when consumers and their peers are not physically together. People do tell their friends when they got a good deal. As Trendwatching points out, this trend is not about just groups of people. It's about friends, people who know each other and may not be together.
Eventbrite, the event ticketing site, found that users are 10 times more likely to share details of events they have bought tickets to (than those events they are still considering whether to buy).
Helping people form small groups to attend activities, spot deals, get in on gifts, and more is an area of opportunity for apps.
- Consumers’ social networks are literally turned into products and services. Helping people create a unique experience for themselves is the context-maker for a product or service to extend its influence.
The best example of this is Flipboard, an app that integrates tweets and updates into a single, personalized online magazine.
Another example is LinkedIn Today, a socially curated news homepage for users that rounds up the stories and links that are being read, shared and discussed by a user’s network.
The biggest opportunity for brands is still to provide content that expands and improves the experience around a product or service. To build relationships with the people who choose to be inside that experience around what the brand makes.
Think about Nike+ -- I love the system and I don't even use it. I'm an Adidas fan from my early soccer days, and they make great running shoes for women with narrow feet. So we 're seeing some brands making direct inroads with tools and technologies that help people make the product their own -- and spread it to their friends.
Will more brands join the fray, or will they wait for other platforms -- the famous "next Facebook", etc. -- to emerge so they can jump in?
What's your take? Does it matter if the system is good and makes you look good?
[image from a year in social commerce infographic]