Don’t bet on a one-trick pony to win the ecommerce Triple Crown


There are lots of proverbs celebrating consistency. “Dance with the one who brung ya” is a personal favorite. But another classic saying, “Never swap horses in midstream,” may not hold true for ecommerce marketers.

MarketingSherpa’s Ecommerce Benchmark Report 2009 emphasizes that consistency in message must be accompanied by fluidity in medium. In other words, not only must marketers driving a campaign be prepared to swap steeds midstream, if they want to reach prospects most effectively, they may need a whole stable of horses — or marketing tactics — to choose from.

This is particularly true for those seeking to integrate social media into existing campaigns.

In this most recent edition of their benchmark guide, Sherpa segmented their survey respondents and gave primacy to a faction they term “High Knowledge”, companies defined by their analytics usage and their knowledge and use of metrics.

The chart below shows how the H-K club ranks various social media tactics in terms of effectiveness.


What goals are these folks accomplishing through social media? Primarily brand awareness and brand reputation.

Remember that, according to Sherpa, those who report the most satisfaction promoting brand awareness through social media are High Knowledge companies like Zappos and Calvin Klein, whose brands were pretty ubiquitous to begin with.

Before embarking on a social media campaign, consider whether and how it will match your goals. Sherpa Research Director Stefan Tornquist writes, if social media isn’t working for you, it may be that you’ve mismatched your goal and your tactic.

Sherpa surveys suggest consumer services are best promoted through viral video and social site profiles. However, if your goals are generating leads or increasing online sales, social media tactics should probably be at the bottom of your strategy list.

Another consideration regarding productive engagement with social media is the metrics we use to measure effectiveness. If tactics were horses, search and email would be the big purse winners of the marketing races while social media is still the untried colt.

Rein in that unruly youngster by using the appropriate metrics to evaluate his performance. It’s hard to track the effectiveness of social media by simply looking for an increase in clicks. Instead, Sherpa’s benchmark guide promotes looking at engagement per campaign, measuring activities such as registering, entering a contest, commenting on a list, or amending a profile.

In a recent blog post from MarketingMVP, John Bell, managing director of Ogilvy PR’s 360 Digital Influence Group, developed three strategies to track how word of mouth and social media were affecting his brand:

  • · Reach: using Web metrics and tracking the volume of conversations taking place online.
  • · Preference: includes metrics such as Net Promoter Score and a sentiment index – which gauges whether people are hearing the message, whether they have a preference for the brand or issue, and whether a company is increasing positive share of voice compared to competitors.
  • · Action: this refers to any conversion that takes place as a result of a social media or word of mouth interaction, from a website registration to a product sale.

Ecommerce marketers seeking big wins must decide when to apply tried and true tactics and when to branch out into the new territory of social media. They might do well to take a lesson from jockey Calvin Borel.

Calvin Borel may be the first jockey to win the Triple Crown without help from a horse.  Any single horse, that is. As a rule, it’s unheard of for a jockey who’s riding a winner to change mounts. But that’s just what Borel did.

In the Derby, Borel piloted Mine that Bird to an unlikely first place but in the Preakness, second leg of the three-race journey, Borel did the unheard of and changed horses in midstream. For the second race, he rode filly Rachel Alexandra to victory.

As for whose colors he’ll wear in the Belmont? Borel hasn’t declared. Rachel Alexandra may not have the staying power for race number three, the longest race in the Triple Crown, and Borel, if he wants to maintain his winning streak, may have to switch horses again to cross that finish line in the style to which he has become accustomed.

Marketers, keep your options open.

And keep in mind that one way to do so is to attend our upcoming clinic: a special report on ecommerce with two new case studies and guest presenter Stefan Tornquist.

In this clinic, we’ll explore more of the 2009 Ecommerce Benchmark Report (and offer five attendees the chance to win a free copy of their very own). We look forward to seeing you–well,  hearing your comments and answering your questions–there.

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1 Comment
  1. Rosario Takemoto says

    It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.

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