Socially savvy consumers—B2C and B2B—are reinventing the purchase process.
Today these customers are the early adopters, but much sooner than most business leaders think, these social customers' approach to buying will be commonplace— especially for considered purchases like automobiles, electronics, financial products, software, travel, even services like consulting.
Here's how the process often goes: A B2B social customer (in this actual case Brent Leary, partner at CRM Essentials) decided to purchase a new, professional-grade video camera. He determined what key features would meet his needs; then the hunt began. The first stop was Facebook and Twitter to ask associates what cameras they recommend. Using hash tags, Leary was able to extend his reach beyond his network to video enthusiasts. Armed with several recommendations he headed to search engines and manufacturers' sites to gather details about several products, as well as to publication websites that provide in-depth reviews. But the search didn't end there. After narrowing down the selection to a few choices, Leary visited an online community for video enthusiasts that he learned about through his earlier social networking to get recommendations and insight on those cameras. From there he narrowed the choice to one camera and visited an online community comprised solely of users of that camera. Members not only provided feedback on the camera, but also recommended places to purchase it and reminded Leary to come back post-purchase for advice on using his new video camera. Confident in his selection, he made the purchase with no hesitation—and no postpurchase buyers' remorse.
The question for brands and the marketers and salespeople who represent them is: Are you prepared to be part of the social conversations happening about your brand—not only postpurchase, but also pre-purchase? Does your website offer customer reviews along with product descriptions; do you host an open community that prospects can visit to talk to customers, or participate in industry forums? Are you tracking relevant hashtags? Just as important, are your competitors doing any of these things?
In the not-too-distant future there won't be social commerce, there will only be commerce.
Social business will be completely woven into the fabric of businesses of every size across every industry and in every geography. The organizations that will succeed in that environment are the ones that take the time now to understand their social customers and build a strategy to support them today and evolve with them over time.