Why 'Commerce' Shouldn't Be a Dirty Word in Tech Marketing

Connecting With Consumers Is Great, but Making a Sale Would Be Better

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Check out this recent conversation I had with the CEO of a mobile marketing company. He was explaining to me the new QR program his agency had done with a major jeweler retailer in the windows of their flagship Fifth Avenue store.

Me (eagerly): "So what happens when people scan the code in the store window?"

He (excitedly): "We help enrich the discovery process and we show them lots of information about the jewelry in the window."

Me (really really curious since m-commerce has not really happened yet): "Can you buy the jewelry through the phone?"

He (looking quite distressed): "Oh no. We help the user appreciate the jewelry by giving them more information about the jewelry."

Me (puzzled): "So do you encourage the person to GO INTO the store – after all – they are right outside?"

He (now looking utterly horrified): "Of course not. We help them with the discovery process." I must have looked crestfallen because he sadly added; "I guess you just don't get it."

Now just as the echo of that exchange faded in my head, I was jolted back into my frustrated state at the dearth of commerce- ready marketing technology when I was asked to review a new study by a tech company that develops marketing solutions for Fortune 500 companies. This aptly buzzed study titled "Increase campaign effectiveness with social media" assigned a value of $22.93 to "producers" not because they actually buy anything but because of their value to influence others to buy. OK -- I guess I can see that except they give no specific indication about how to link any technology with these "producers" who, somehow, are supposed to deliver us to the commerce-friendly Promised Land. And how is that supposed to work exactly?

Nor are these two examples the outliers. Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook have all faced the tech/ commerce gap; an ongoing challenge for marketers to measure, monetize and manage efficiently. Forrester in fact just came out with a study that concludes: "Facebook commerce won't take off."

Agree or not -- no one can debate that social commerce has not really happened yet no matter how cool Mashable or TechCrunch describe a new marketing technology. Is it too much to ask for these technologies to be designed to sell something -- anything? Or, how about, just for a change, we stop chasing the ever elusive "Producers" or "Influentials" or whatever we call them and we get down to the business of actually selling them stuff online? Why does it seem like "cool" marketing technology and "commerce" are mutually exclusive?

I can't say for sure but here's an observation -- marketing technology is rarely built by marketers. Most often it is built by entrepreneurs who know how to make it cleverly cool, but who don't get the commerce/ social link yet. This means we end up with technologies which marketers then must contort into measurable programs (a huge challenge right there) that they hope they might actually drive a sale (at some undefined and hard to measure future point in time).

That's a real pity because, well applied, the real beneficiaries of commerce ready marketing technology are not just big companies, but lots and lots of smaller e-tailers (translate this to lots and lots of market potential).

Some of the cleverest tech companies are recognizing the huge market potential of merging local, mobile and social to drive commerce. Take these two examples. First is the recent deal between Addoway, the online trusted "social" marketplace and Reply/Buy, a mobile platform that lets users actually purchase product via phones. These companies have come together to curate a user experience that makes m-commerce almost frictionless (hooray). Or, take the example of a company called Big Door. This is a tech company that creates mini toolbars based on gaming theory so every action lets visitors earn points redeemable for products. It's the first toolbar I have seen that drives commerce forward (double hooray since most mini toolbars just enhance the share function).

I hope more marketing tech companies will understand that the successful marketing plays centered within the triad -- local/social/mobile -- are terrifically well suited for commerce. It just requires a mature look at how to merge cool with commerce.

That wasn't so hard -- now was it?

Judy Shapiro is chief brand strategist at CloudLinux and has held senior marketing positions at Paltalk, Comodo, Computer Associates, Lucent Technologies, AT&T and Bell Labs. Her blog, Trench Wars, provides insights on how to create business value on the internet.
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