Just a decade ago, launching a digital campaign meant building a website and maybe investing in a few banner ads to drive traffic. But then along came the likes of Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the smartphone. Things are now much more complicated, with any online campaign now encompassing far more than just a website.
While the ever-changing online landscape presents countless more challenges, it also offers just as many opportunities. From booking on Facebook, to paying with your mobile, these new possibilities can be both innovative and directly applicable to your offline business.
Over the next few issues of Attractions Management, we’ll be exploring many of these in detail. But, for now, let’s take a look at just a few of these opportunities that go far beyond a simple website.
Social Media Payments & Booking
While you’re using Facebook to build up your online community or Twitter as a real time newsfeed, you could also be using social media to enhance your visitors’ booking and paying experiences.
A recent L2 study showed that 64 per cent of the hotels surveyed had some form of booking facilities on their Facebook pages. These hotels also sent approximately 50 per cent less traffic to online travel agencies than their non-Facebook counterparts, which could result in a saving in commission fees.
Adding a booking page to your Facebook page is fairly simple and often facilitated by a third party. Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London, UK has replicated the ticketing solution from its website on a Facebook app run by See Tickets. This means that fans can select a date and book and pay without leaving the social media site.
If booking on Facebook isn’t appropriate, this isn’t your only option. It’s now possible to pay-by-tweet. Launched in partnership with American Express, this is Twitter’s first attempt to build e-commerce directly into the site. The partnership allows users to link their Amex accounts to their Twitter profile. Transactions are made when users tweet a hashtag, notifying the brand of their intent to buy. Amex then responds with an authorisation tweet that the user must retweet within 15 minutes to confirm their purchase. The payment will then be taken from the synced Amex account and the product shipped to the corresponding address.
Currently only available to select partners in the US, this may not be the most feasible option, but it shouldn’t put you off experimenting with payments on Twitter. It could just mean that (for now) no actual money should exchange hands.
A recent pop-up shop in London let customers pay for a snack with a Tweet. The Kellogg’s Tweet Shop asked customers to show the brand some love on Twitter in exchange for a free treat.
Similarly, Danish chocolatier Anthon Berg offered free luxurious chocolates to customers in exchange for their promise to do a good deed – shared publicly on Facebook. Customers could ‘buy’ a box of chocolates using iPads at the checkout desks to log into Facebook and make their public promise to a chosen loved one. This promise was sent via the Anthon Berg page creating huge buzz for the brand on Facebook and tagging in hundreds of potential new fans.
While these case studies may not be technically e-commerce, they’re examples of social commerce at its best – PR-worthy events that reward customers or visitors for being social.
Mobile phone usage, in particular smartphones, has developed at an exponential rate over the past few years. It’s estimated that more than half the UK population have a smartphone, with the US not far behind at 44 per cent (Google: Our Mobile Planet 2012).
Thanks to this technology, people are always online, increasing the opportunities for interaction and expanding the term digital campaign to include mobile.
A simple way to integrate mobile into any digital campaign is via mobile payments. Studies show that people are most likely to use mobile payments for relatively small amounts when looking for a quick transaction, making this the perfect technology for theme parks and attractions, where purchases are small and time is of the essence.
Mobile payment tools enable purchase points to be set up almost anywhere, creating increased opportunities for sales. For example, floating sellers armed with mobile payment tools could service queues for theme park rides and not be restricted by location or cash-only transactions.
Mobile phones offer several ways for users to make payments. Set up by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, Square is a small credit card reader dongle that can be attached to any smartphone, turning it into a payment point. It’s popular with small retailers, who might not be able to take electronic payments otherwise. Square provides the card reader for free, but charges a fee of 2.75 per cent on each transaction. More than two million small merchants have signed up to Square already, and, as of August 2012, the company has had a £25m (US$39m, E29.6m) investment from Starbucks.
Another payment method is the mobile wallet, which stores a user’s payment information on their phone. The most common iteration is Google Wallet, a Google offering that stores a user’s credit and debit card information online and uses that information to pay online or offline via NFC (Near Field Communication). One advantage of this is that retailers can also set up special offers and coupons and can link Google Wallet to their loyalty programmes.
However, there are still many consumers who are concerned about storing so much personal information on a single device and the security risks that could surround simply needing to tap your phone to make a monetary transaction.
Also, there are still some enormous infrastructure challenges – not only do users need to install a mobile wallet, retailers need to equip themselves to manage these types of transactions.
As of yet, there isn’t sufficient buy-in on either side to turn the mobile wallet into a must-have element of all digital campaigns. However, be prepared to revisit this in the years to come.
Combining Online and Offline Commerce
While pop-up shops and paying with a tweet showcase the more creative side of a digital campaign, we can’t forget the data. Chances are that no matter how gorgeous your site or Facebook cover photo/banner ad is, the powers-that-be will always want to know just one thing – where’s the return on my investment (ROI)?
Luckily, Google Analytics recently unveiled its new Measurement Protocol and a feature that it dubbed Universal Analytics. This feature is now open to all users and can go a long way to proving the use of online to offline commerce.
Essentially, Universal Analytics offers three core benefits – the first being the ability to track users by their profiles, as opposed to assigning information and behaviour to visits alone.
This means that if a user has a profile and has signed into a site on their desktop, and then subsequently logs in on their mobile, Google Analytics will be able to assign the complete user journey across both devices.
So, if a user clicks on one of your PPC ads on their desktop, signs up to your site, and then makes a reservation via their mobile, you can still attribute the reservation to your PPC ad and see what the complete user journey was.
Crucially, this lets you see how users behave across devices and can play a critical role in proving the effectiveness of elements of your digital campaign.
For example, if you’re utilising NFC or other mobile specific technologies, but you have a big marketing push on desktop search, you’ll be able to show how the two interlink.
The second core benefit of Universal Analytics is the ability to now import other data into Google Analytics and overlay it on the standard analytics data.
This allows Google Analytics users to overlay cost information with your online reporting. For example, if you’re paying your SEO agency a set retainer fee, you can include that next to your search data to see what your cost-per-visit is from an SEO point of view. This will leave you with a closer understanding of what ROI that agency is delivering.
Similarly, if you’re pushing a massive NFC subscription campaign through offline advertising, you can overlay those offline costs on your mobile usage metrics. From this, you can begin to get an idea of how successfully your investment is being monetised.
When you combine both features, you can get a wealth of data. For example, if you’re using NFC payments, you can see how users find your site and combine that with how they pay with their mobiles offline. From this, you can see what online activities deliver the most cash offline and, from their profile data, which type of people convert best.
The final benefit is the ability to assign customer lifetime value, which is particularly relevant for any e-commerce properties you may have set up.
By assigning values to actions on our sites, and in conjunction with the previously mentioned two features, this will allow us to view the value of a user over that consumer’s lifetime and across all of their devices. With this data, we can begin to segment the users and compare their acquisition costs, creating an incredibly powerful CRM data-set that will ultimately help to answer that inevitable question about ROI.
Today, a digital campaign encompasses everything from layered analytics to creative social commerce. While we’ve barely scratched the surface of the opportunities available online, the options I’ve outlined should provide plenty of opportunities that any brand can capitalise on.
No matter what you incorporate into your campaigns, there’s one thing to always keep in mind – digital is now with us wherever we go. We, as brands, finally have the opportunity to link all of our activities together and get the most comprehensive idea that we’ve ever had of who our consumer is.
The technology’s already there – the challenge is the lack of precedent. To really capitalise on digital and its opportunities, a new approach is required – one that’s willing to trial new things, test them and then learn from them.
Even something as simple as a Facebook booking tab can be scary for a brand to undertake. But isn’t it scarier to ignore the potential pay-off?