Articles in The 'consumers' Tag

July 29 2011

Gleaning Business Intel from Social Media

by Katherine Bennett

It seems like social media has exploded over the last few years, yet there are many businesses that aren’t quite sure how to use it as a benefit. They’ve tinkered with coupons, giveaways and sign-ups. They’ve even asked people to like their page or follow them on Twitter. Although they’ve tried these different strategies, they still aren’t seeing the great results that they’ve heard others talk about. Social media is not a quick sales fix, it’s about communication. More importantly, communicating with your audience.

Many businesses fail to use social media as a communication tool to connect with their audience. Consumers are willing to give their feedback about a product or service, but someone has to be taking notes. To better utilize social media, ask your target audience to share their opinion about your business product or service. It’s not rocket science, and it could help your business improve an existing product or service. Let’s say for example that a restaurant has recently introduced a new spicy food dish. At first it’s a huge hit, but then the orders for this new dish start to fizzle out and the restaurant owner is wondering why? Instead of discontinuing the dish, the owner starts a social conversation inviting consumers to give their feedback. As the feedback comes in, the owner realizes that customers are disappointed because the spicy food dish isn’t that “spicy.” This feedback helps the owner improve the dish and customers are invited to test the improved version. By simply communicating, the restaurant owner has solved the mystery of why the spicy food dish orders fizzled out.

It sounds simple, but businesses can miss out on opportunities if they aren’t listening. In fact, service and product revenue can be increased from simply reading consumer’s social media communications within your community. Let’s say you own a company that services computers. The business is doing well, but you are wondering where improvements can be made.  As you read through posted comments and tweets, you notice a recurring theme. Customers want extended hours on weekdays, so that they can drop their computer off on their way to work. In fact, many have changed their weekend plans or haven’t even brought their computer in because your weekday hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. This forces them to come in during their lunch or rush through traffic to get to your business before close or look elsewhere for help.  What’s the solution? Your business shortens up its weekend hours and extends its weekday hours.

Social media can be a great asset to your business, if it’s leveraged correctly. If your business will learn to pay attention, your audience may be providing new ideas and business solutions.

March 9 2010

Why Are Online Affiliates Outselling Me?

by Katherine Bennett

It’s happened time and time again. A company produces a product and pays online affiliates to sell their product with the promise that they will receive a commission.
The online affiliates begin to sell the product and end up selling more than the actual company. Then the age old question occurs, why are my online affiliates selling more than me? This seems to be a problem for ecommerce companies who sell their goods online and use online affiliates to help. There are many reason why online affiliates outsell company’s on their products, but the main two that we will focus on are price and incentives.

One of the primary drivers of consumer purchases is price. Everyone should know that consumers have become “shop around” savvy. It’s no longer the “buy because I want it and forget price.” Instead it has become “let’s shop around on the internet for the best price,” and this isn’t hard for consumers to do with shopping engines and comparison shopping sites springing up on the internet daily. If a company is selling a product online and they want it to generate more revenue than online affiliates, they need to make sure that they have the best price possible. A perfect example would be my recent purchase of a cell phone. I bought my cell phone from a third party vendor instead of my cell phone service provider. The third party vendor had a better price; they included a car charger, a leather carrying case, and didn’t require that I extend my cell phone contract. If I had bought my phone from my service provider I would have spent at least $40 to $60 more, plus I would have had to pay an upgrade fee. The third party vendor offered better incentives than my actual cell phone service provider.

Incentives to buy a product are also important factors to help a company outsell their affiliates. Let’s say that your company and your affiliates are selling product “x” for $40. This puts you on the same playing field as your affiliates, but what happens when your online affiliates adds incentives. The affiliates offer free shipping on orders over $25 for example. Guess who’s actually gaining a new customer? Correct, the affiliate. Incentives such as free shipping, a free gift, and discounts can influence consumers to buy from an online affiliate instead of the manufacturer. What’s the purpose of selling a product on your site if a consumer can go to reputable online affiliates and buy it cheaper, with better incentives?

Many online companies need to sit down and be honest with themselves about their online affiliate strategy. Online affiliates are supposed to increase company revenue not take away from it. If all of your customers are going to online affiliates, then you have to pay out more commissions. The whole purpose of online affiliates is to help your company generate more revenue by reaching consumers that normally wouldn’t know or come to your site. There’s a delicate balance that must be kept between online affiliates and companies, otherwise the online affiliate becomes a paid competitor.  If you’re going to sell your product online and use an online affiliate marketing program, make sure that your website has the best price and the best incentives. Otherwise, you should let the online affiliates sell the product and focus your attention elsewhere.

November 19 2009

Consumer’s Speak through Social Media- Businesses Pay Attention

by Katherine Bennett

There used to be a time that if a consumer had a complaint with a company, they would write a letter or make a phone call. If the issue wasn’t resolved a consumer would probably complain to family and friends and discontinue any business that they had with the company. In rare cases, some consumers went as far as getting a lawyer or asking a TV station to look into their story. This might cause a company to lose a little business, but normally it didn’t cause a major dent in productivity. However, Social Media is changing the way the game is played. This means businesses have to pay attention and respond quickly; otherwise, they could get unwanted publicity.

Consumers are now using Social Media to make their voices heard. Take the Bank of America incident that happened recently. According to an article on, Ann Minch posted a video on YouTube after she claims her credit card interest rate shot up to 30%. She did attempt to work things out with the bank before posting her YouTube video. The bank responded, after getting much unwanted attention, and according to the article, “Jeff Crawford, the bank’s senior vice president of existing customer credit services, called Ann to discuss her concerns.” They reached an agreement. In this situation, it appears that Bank of America’s slow response caused them to get unwanted publicity. If they had acted quickly when the complaint first surfaced,   fewer people would know about Ann Minch and her ordeal with Bank of America.

On the other hand, when businesses act quickly to resolve a consumer’s complaint, the results can be win/win. Recently, one of my colleagues was able to get results from Disney via LinkedIn. My colleague visits Disney frequently with her family. As a frequent/returning guest Disney acknowledges this on future visits by greeting you by last name in restaurants and hotels on property.  For example: Hello Smith family and welcome to breakfast. However, Disney kept calling her family by the wrong name. She had updated her information with Disney before, but apparently Disney didn’t make the change. She didn’t rant and rave, instead she called to get the change made, but to no avail. Then she decided to go to LinkedIn, where she found the profile of a top Disney marketing executive, and sent that person an e-mail explaining the situation. In a few days, she was contacted, apologized to and told that the situation would be rectified. Disney acted quickly to solve the issue and everybody came away happy.

Many consumers are using social media to make their voices heard. Think about it, in a matter of minutes a consumer can e-mail a top executive on LinkedIn, post a video on YouTube and tweet on Twitter for the entire world to see, about an issue they had with your business. Companies need to pay attention when a consumer reaches out to them concerning a matter they want to get resolved. Good customer service and an effective response can save a company from having to spend time and money on damage control later on.

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