The retailers we talk to are all "interested" in social media, but they are often unsure of how to integrate it into their marketing or e-commerce initiatives. Today we'll look at a few examples of how retailers are using social.

Get "Buy" with a Little Help From Your Friends
My wife always wants a second opinion on purchases and shopping with friends gives her the instant feedback she craves. Is it the right color, fit, price point? Does the item connect to the occasion, the person or the season? As an online retailer, you might ask yourself what slice of the roughly 98% of your traffic that is not buying from you today is abandoning their purchase because they need a second opinion. Consumers say that word of mouth is still the number one influencer in their apparel (34.3%) and electronics (44.4%) purchases (Retail Advertising and Marketing Association/BIGresearch Study, November 2008). What we consider "word of mouth" has evolved to take on new forms - IM, email, mobile text messages and Facebook updates all represent the blurring reality that is word of mouth. For example, last week I bought a gift for my daughter by following a link a friend posted via Facebook. I never "talked" with my friend about the product, but rather used his experience as credibility to make the purchase. As retailers, you should be asking yourself how you can foster these kinds of interactions. TechCrunch highlights how Vans Shoes is using technology from their agency Fluid to improve conversion rates, by allowing users to instantly request feedback from their Facebook friends and instant messaging buddy list. According to the article, "If you see an item you like while browsing a retail site, you can request feedback about a product from your friends by pushing information about the product (such as images from clothing, links to products, and movie clips) to your Facebook status update." I noticed other retailers like incorporate this functionality within their customer reviews. This is not necessarily revolutionary given that social features like "email to a friend" have been around for some time, but it certainly dovetails nicely with the utility and popularity of tools like Facebook and instant messaging.

Twitter Service, Twitter Deals, Twinkle
Do you have a new product to announce, a promotional offer, or are you temporarily out of stock of a popular item? All of these issues are great use cases for maintaining a Twitter account. has aggregated Twitter feeds from multiple retailers so you can see what they are doing (examples include American Apparel, Diane Von Furstenberg, Zappos, Home Depot, etc.). In addition, Google just announced the availability of a new Twitter ad format, allowing marketers to take their tweets (Twitter messages) and target them to useful audiences on our content network. You can learn about how Intuit used this unit during tax season here. Twitter users are often mobile since the service easily connects to phones and the nature of tweets are only 140 characters, easily read via a mobile text message. In thinking about mobile and Twitter, I came across a service called Twinkle, which works in conjunction with Twitter, that would allow retailers to send tweets to audiences that are traveling anywhere from 1 to 1000 miles from their store locations (Note that service only supports the iPhone and iPhone touch - demo video is here ). Imagine a luxury or electronics retailer in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles looking to communicate a store event with the hundreds or possibly thousands of iPhone/iPod Touch users looming around their stores. If you want to read about more great Twitter tools that are possible for your website, here is a good Top 10 List. Also, here are two shameless plugs to see how Google is using Twitter,, and how the Google Retail team is using Twitter -

Overwhelmed by the Latest Social Media Buzzwords and Trends? Start with Customer Reviews
The most basic and perhaps highest impact "social app" is one that has been around for awhile - product ratings and reviews on your retail site. I am amazed at how few major retailers employ this technology and I keep hearing about the obvious benefits to conversion rate and quality assurance for retailers that do. According to a recent survey from Avail Intelligence, "over 36% of respondents rated recommendations, reviews and customer generated wish lists as the most useful aspect of an internet shopping site." Many of you may have noticed that Apple has been running both print and TV ad campaigns around particular themes related to applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch ("apps" for students, small businesses, etc.). As an iPhone user, I was taken with a print ad about saving money. There were two apps that sounded interesting to me so I went to the App Store on my iPhone and looked them up. Both applications had customer reviews of under 3 out of a possible 5 and the comments were on balance negative and well articulated, so much so that I immediately pulled back from spending the $0.99 on one app. You can call me cheap, but customers were questioning privacy controls associated with this particular app and I wasn't willing to risk a dollar in exchange for putting personal data at risk. I applaud Apple for being one of the poster children for customer reviews and trust Apple because the shopping experience on their site was implicitly transparent. They provided an honest forum, I felt more informed, and I will absolutely continue to shop their store in the future. For any retailer, the fundamental question has to be, how can we serve our customers better and more profitably? Customer reviews provide a treasure trove of data for you to become more informed about quality issues or service issues. Complaints are a fact of life in any business, especially in retail, but what customers judge you on is how you respond to them when there's a screw up. Customer reviews represent a fantastic opportunity for you to be more nimble and responsive in an increasingly competitive environment.