Social Sharing

On lostgolfballs.com when you get to cart page they have a clever design element that shows a partial 5% off coupon code—

Lostgolfballs.com_Social_Share

On click we see this popup—

Lostgolfballs.com_Social_Share_Popup

The idea is pretty simple, shoppers who are incentivized by the discount can access it by letting their Twitter or Facebook friends know about the order.

Idea described above is a plug and play widget by addshoppers.com, so you can implement it on your site too.

Whisper Marketing

Windycityparrot.com is an e-tailer specializing in exotic bird supplies.  Their site is popular but their visit volume represents a tiny sliver of US bird supplies market.  I am sure they would love introducing more customers to their site.

Here is a potential solution.  Who do exotic bird owners know?  That’s right, other exotic bird owners.  Windycityparrot.com should run a small scale experiment-

1. Pull up email addresses of their 100 most loyal customers (ranked by average order value, buying frequency and length of relationship).

2. Around early November send this list an email with a message that boils down to: because you are a valued customer we would like to send a box of 50 complimentary holiday cards.  Click here to pick your favorite design.

3. On click customers are taken to a page with 3 holiday card formats.  Card cover has a beautiful high quality picture of a bird (holiday themed) with a message on the inside.  Message choices vary from generic to funny.  Customers can even mix and match their selection of 50 cards.  The card itself has no branding except for the phrase bit.ly/exoticbird in small font on the back.

4. By the 3rd week of November these customers receive a box of bird holiday cards.

5. They now send their cards to friends and family.

I’m not a printing expert.  I believe bulk buying 5,000 (assuming 100 shortlisted customers) + mailing the card box costs $7,000.  People who visit bit.ly/exoticbird are redirected to http://www.windycityparrot.com/?utm_source=card&utm_medium=print&utm_campaign=holiday%2Bcards.  <—This long url tracks card marketing campaign in Google Analytics.  To customize for your site visit http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=55578

200 days later the company logs into Google Analytics, accesses Traffic Sources –> Campaigns report and measures revenue, transaction, conversion and per visit value numbers.  The company already knows new converts have a lifetime value of 3 transactions.  Using this they calculate card campaign net profits.  If ROI is greater than 3x the program is expanded.

Related article: KuKuRuZa Gourmet Popcorn

KuKuRuZa Gourmet Popcorn

Jake is a huge fan of KuKuRuZa gourmet popcorn.  He discovered the site 3 years ago and started off by ordering their Variety Pack.  He enjoyed Caramel & Cheese Mix so much he bought it five times, thrice gifting it to friends and family.  Jake’s lifetime spend on KuKuRuZa.com is a very impressive $197.00 and we know Jake is not a bargain hunter because his purchase habits are not localized around special price promotions.  All in all, Jake is an ideal customer.

He has often visited the Butter & Sea Salt page and lingered long enough for us to know that the flavor catches his attention.  Unfortunately, Jake has never purchased it.  A 1 gallon bag of Butter & Sea Salt retails for $8.95.

The enterprising manager at KuKuRuZa sees that Jake has not bought in the last two months and executes a complimentary order of the 1 gallon Butter & Sea Salt bag accompanied with a handwritten note that reads “Jake, I am the manager at KuKuRuZa.  I wanted to thank you for being a loyal customer by sharing this complimentary bag of our delicious Butter & Sea Salt.  Regards – Robert.

This is a hypothetical case study but imagine the impact it would have on Jake.  Sure we spent $8.95 plus shipping on a bag of popcorn but that’s pittance compared to how much Jake has spent with us.  This small investment could trigger word-of-mouth and Jake is bound to share his KuKuRuZa story when he speaks with friends.

Related article: Customer Segmentation

Borrowing From Andy

Andy Sernovitz is a passionate advocate for Word Of Mouth Marketing (WOM) and his book Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking is a must read for all niche ecommerce retailers.

So how does small retailer with a limited marketing budget ignite a following?

The first thing to seriously consider is the caliber of the product.  No amount of WOM helps an ill-conceived idea.  The second step is to concentrate on finding evangelists (an article about finding evangelists).

Alright, now that you’ve done the groundwork and identified a nice list of passionate customers you need to dream up creative ways of using them as brand propagators.  Here are two ideas:

Give away one item for free
Pecard prides itself on being an awesome leather horse saddle polish.  Mary, who lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan is an evangelist who orders on a regular basis.  The polish itself is inexpensive ($4) but matching shipping costs make it unattractive for the non-Marys of the world.  So, next time Mary orders I’d send her two free bottles accompanied with a hand-written note requesting she share the polish with a close friend.  Passionate horse lovers almost always know other passionate horse lovers.  If next month you find a mysterious new order from Ypsilanti, Michigan you’ll know your strategy worked.

Get evangelists to sign up as spokesmen – I love my dry-cleaners and if they made a local TV commercial I’d be more than happy to endorse them in front of a camera.  So, if you sell great bonsais ask your evangelists if they’d mind being local references.  Those who want to participate could even provide their email addresses and give on-the-fence customers a good reason to buy.  If you think asking for an email address is a little extreme just remember people do it all the time on message-boards.