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Influencer marketing, also known as word-of-mouth marketing, is popping up increasingly in the headlines thanks to social media’s dominant role in marketing and customer engagement.
Like most marketing trends, building relationships in the field and cultivating feedback is one of the oldest approaches in the book. But the amount of big data generated through these social networks and digital channels is giving marketers fresh sources of customer information that can be used to better capitalise on these peer-to-peer relationships.
In a recent American Marketing Association webinar, consumer electronics brand, Sony, outlined its efforts over the past 18 months to undertake more relevant data-driven marketing by tapping into customer influencers, and how it achieved triple-digit conversion rates as a result. The work was done in partnership with influencer marketing management solutions provider, Pursway.
Senior-vice president and managing director of Sony Card Marketing and Services Company, Steven Fuld, said the aim was to improve its marketing campaigns and amplify their overall impact through deeper engagement with influencers. To do this, it needed to rationalise big data and utilise third-party social information within its various marketing activities to drive specific customer engagements and interactions.
Fuld oversees all aspects of the Sony Rewards program, as well as the Sony and PlayStation credit card programs.
Historically, Sony’s sister companies, which include electronics, music, movies and gaming, had managed CRM, customer set and marketing independently.
“We have a lot of data but we’ve not really harnessed it well. We wanted to see how taking a holistic view of the data across the different businesses and customers interacting with them, and then leveraging social and data-driven marketing, all within the context of influencer marketing, could ultimately drive our results,” Fuld said.
“We wanted to increase the ROI and efficacy of direct marketing programs, and to push revenue up without pushing customers. One of the things we have found as key to influencer marketing is getting really targeted without overexposing customers to marketing.”
The first challenge was pulling data assets across the different sister companies into one place, Fuld said. “The reality is our customers span not just one unit, but across different businesses,” he said.
Using Pursway in connection with its own customer systems, Sony was then able to identify topic-based influencers by different product categories, identify specific buyers. Through tailored marketing campaigns, it augmented the natural influence those buyers already had with their network of friends in order to get those friends to buy along with them, Fuld said.
“It’s about finding people who have the ability to make friends within their social sphere, make purchasing decisions and transact,” he said. “We started socialising our data by overlaying a social graph onto our data to understand how influences who in our midst.”
Pursway takes a customer/CRM database and translates that customer network into a social network for the organisation, chief client officer and co-founder, Ran Shaul, said. Key benefits include new customer acquisition, deepening engagement, protecting customers and better targeting leads.
“When we talk about influence, it’s everything besides buzz. We don’t count likes or tweets, we measure the impact of purchases within your social circle,” Shaul said. “We try to understand who is in your close friends’ network – the people you see, meet and talk to – as those are the people who have an impact with influence on purchasing.”
Pursway’s technology is designed to identify people who disproportionately influence the purchase and use of specific products or services. To do this, a brand’s customer data is combined with Pursway Connect, a customer social database of 100 million consumers that defines influencers in different product and industry categories.
The database has been compiled by crawling the Web for publicly available user information such as online activity across public websites and social connections, Shaul said.
“The ripple effect of an influencer is significant, consistent and measurable,” he said. “This is because people trust the decisions of an influencer.
“For example, if one of your close friends bought an electronic product, such as a TV or laptop, you’re likelihood of buying that product increases by a factor or 3.3. If your friend is an influential purchaser, this goes up to 5.3 times.”
At Sony, 15 per cent of the combined customer database was identified as ‘influencers’. These are people who can drive two or three of his/her friends to buy, Shaul said. Across Sony’s Electronics business, consumers were identified as being three times more likely to buy if their friend had already bought a product. Those with friends who already used Sony credit cards were also two to three times more likely to subscribe.
When Sony’s prospecting campaigns were optimised, results soared by 300 per cent, Fuld said. As an example, he detailed a marketing campaign around Sony’s rewards card program aimed at improving credit card take-up.
“We hadn’t previously turned this around to find out how those cardholders could help us encourage purchases from their friends,” Fuld explained. “We were able to identify a small subset of customers in our database that were high influencers. We then created a specific offer using the card to extend that offer to new prospects, so the existing cardholder and prospect would both benefit.”
To date, Sony has recorded a 300-400 per cent increase in conversion rates repeatedly over this and similar campaigns using its new influencer approach.
“This is not just about identifying the influencers and sending out your normal BAU marketing,” Fuld said. “You have to make ever so small tweaks to draw out that natural ‘influence-ability’ of your base to get the bigger results.”
Sony is now working on various executions to define the best approach in each channels.
“Part of influencer marketing is identifying who the influencers are, and part of it is learning what messaging and tactics draw that out,” Fuld added. “With testing and trials, we’re learning how to do that and we’re seeing increases in tapping into that organic influence opportunity.”
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