Sramana Mitra: Is online retail the main category where you do business?
Jai Rawat: Yes. Right now that is our focus area. We are beginning to look at some offline components as well. In offline there are two areas we are looking at right now. To begin with, we are looking at using offline to supplement the online retailers. The first moment of excitement is when you just bought the product. The second moment of excitement is when you receive the product – when you open the product. I call it the Styrofoam effect.
We created a mobile app: Now, along with your boxes, it says “Take a picture and share it.” There can be a contest associated with that: if you share the picture, one of you can win $1,000, for example. As an example, people can take a picture of how they are using the product or they could be wearing the dress they ordered and take a picture of themselves. They can be creative about how they want to do it. All these user-generated pictures, and their comments get posted on the social networks and they also get aggregated automatically and can be showcased back on the website for other users to see.
It is a dual-pronged approach. We are doing the push of this user to the social channel, where their friends will discover what they are doing through word of mouth. This is very powerful. We also aggregate it and put it back on the website as social proof for other visitors to see what others users are doing, which creates inspiration for them. This strategy works pretty well. That is the mobile app we just launched. The other thing we are looking at potentially is the Ask-a-Friend we are doing currently for online retailers. We are looking to create a mobile version of that as well. Imagine you are looking at a bunch of different products in a store, and you are not sure which one to buy. You can take a few pictures, send them to your friends, and ask them which one to buy.
SM: We have seen a bunch of these social shopping kinds of companies in our program.
JR: I have seen a number of different approaches. I would put them in five different categories. The initial wave was to create Facebook strategies. Facebook had a billion users at that time so they said, “We should start selling on Facebook. Let´s create a version of your e-commerce website and put it on your Facebook page so people can transact right there.” Certain companies did that. They are out of business now, because the purchase intent, as we were discussing earlier, is not there. People are on Facebook for leisure activities – to hang out. How many times have you visited the page of a brand? Almost never. You only interact with what is on your news feed. You don’t ever wake up in the morning and say: “Hey, let´s visit GAP’s fan page and see what is going on.” Nobody does that. So, that approach didn’t work.
The second approach is to do a lot of Facebook promotion. Wildfire is a great example there, or Woobox. They are doing reasonably well trying to fill the gaps. Those are still fairly popular and I think it is working. The third category is the guys like BuddyMedia and Vitru. They are trying to figure out how to optimize posts – when to post them and what kinds of posts to make, engagement, parameters, what the best way is to optimize your communication to the users, etc. And then you have the plain posting on Facebook. However, almost none of these approaches have generated a very good ROI for retailers. If you focus on driving sales none of these approaches have been very effective. We are saying, “Instead of trying to push commerce on social, bring social to commerce.”
SM: Your assumption is that people are on the website when they want to show up, and you are trying to enhance that experience through social instead of starting on the social side.
JR: Exactly. By that we are getting the users to engage in social activities which then peak in word of mouth. What really works well on social is not B2C, but C2C. There is research I saw recently that talks about the degree of trust people place in the different forms of advertising or messaging. The posts on social media brands rank fairly low – around 10% to 15% level of trust. You can optimize all you want how you should message your users, the reality is that they don’t care as much about what you have to say – especially on the social media channels.