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Pre-Commerce: A digital strategy driven by consumers

In Pre-Commerce: How companies and customers are transforming business together, Bob Pearson, formerly of Dell Computers and now Chief Technology & Media Officer at WCG, a marketing communications agency, delivers the goods on why and how to create a successful pre-commerce program that delivers solid relationships with your customers and strong e-commerce results.

The Transformation of Business
Gone are the days when consumers would walk into a store and get all of their information and questions answered by store clerks prior to purchasing a product. Even consumers who formerly would do research online prior to making purchases, online or face-to-face, now research products, check ratings, poll their friends on Twitter or Facebook, search for infographics, whitepapers, and FAQs, as well as read countless reviews, blog posts, and forum discussions before making an online purchase or stepping foot inside a retail store.

In addition, marketers need to customize digital experiences and downloads for consumers with an eye to potentially more than one device including web, notebook, netbook, tablet or mobile device.

Layer Listening in Social Networks with Goals of Establishing Relationships and Delivering Expert Customer Service
Are you listening to what your customers are saying about you in social networks? And are you participating in those networks and providing content to help influence how consumers perceive your brand? Or even asking customers to contribute ideas to improve your products and services? Pearson indicates that these areas provide huge pre-commerce opportunity areas for brands.

Let’s Say You Get the Argument: What are Next Steps?
Pearson & his colleagues at WCG have developed what they call the Four As — awareness, assessment, action, and ambasadors to understand and create your new digital strategy. Here are some action steps for you to follow to begin to craft your new pre-commerce strategy:

Awareness: brand awareness is now created when customers can evidence your participation and engagement
1. Listen to what consumers are saying online
2. Join in appropriate conversations at appropriate times
3. Provide the right content at the right times

Assessment
1. Provide content consumers can “download, view, read, and act upon” when, where and how customers need it
2. Assess how well you’re meeting customers’ needs prior to purchase or purchase intent.

Action:
1. Customers have acted on your offer in some way

Assessment
1. Assess how well you’re doing in social media by measuring interactions and ranking sentiment to arrive at positive share of conversation

Ambassadors
1. Build relationships with these loyal customers
2. Provide them with even more information
3. Give them opportunities to share their positive experiences of your brand

Note: It’s no mistake that assessment is listed twice — Pearson argues it’s critical to regularly keep score on how well you’re doing. See page 20 for a list of questions to ask if you’re ready to begin (or improve) your efforts on these fronts. Please note that Pearson has some caveats for this model:

“It is driven by customers, not corporations. The customers will decide when they listen, what they’ll discuss on the internet, where they’ll research their purchases, and where they’ll make them. Brand loyalty won’t come from the cave-wall paintings, it will come from persistent, positive interaction between a company, its brand, and its customers” (18).

Check out his text for more information on how to do each of these well. Then, you can use the following four criteria to measure how well you’re doing:

1. Search — where does your brand show up in search results and “within the customer-search journey?”
2. Peers — how do influencers rate and recommend your products and services?
3. Active Sharing — how often do influencers in step #2 above share your content?
4. Available Content — how often do you provide fresh content for influencers to share and are you providing it in the form they want to share?

Pearson gets social media. You will too — once you read and apply the important and timely advice he offers in Pre-commerce. After reading, you’ll be able to outline imperatives specific for your brand in order to create real change in the ways you connect with consumers and in the results you help your company achieve.