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Socking It to your Customers with Social Utility: A Tale of 2 Brands #CAMAExpert

Last week, the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA) brought together powerful +100 year-old consumer brand Walgreens with clever, rising startup Georama to share how they each built sticky customer experiences through a committed focus to creating social media utility.

Walgreens is no stranger to serving the utilitarian needs of its customers on a daily basis.  A few years ago, the online team stood back and took notice of their customer’s ‘changing world of convenience’ thanks to the ubiquity of mobile and social technologies.  Consumers had migrated from a world of ‘down the street’, ‘in-the-store’, ‘in the phonebook’ and ‘on the web’ to ‘at your desk’, ‘in your newsfeed’, ‘in your pocket’ and ‘on your touchscreen’.  The old world consisted of longer  attention spans and higher tolerance for market messaging by consumers.  But times have quickly changed – Micro is Mighty and  it’s becoming the gold standard in communications.  Thus the new rules of mobile and social convenience require brands to stop interrupting their customers.  As marketers we should be finding new ways to become increasingly seamless, relevant and wanted.  The following two examples provided by Walgreens do a great job of illustrating this principle:

Mobile Rx Refill

Customers can use their mobile phones to take a photo of the barcode located on their empty prescription bottle.  The image is routed to the nearest Walgreens pharmacy and when it’s filled, a text message with pickup notification is sent to the customer.  No more calling the pharmacy or having to squeeze a drop-off in the middle of an already hectic day.  A simplified, powerful mobile experience serves customers where they need it most and now represents approximately 50% of Walgreen’s online business.

Social Photo Prints

Thought printing photos was dead?  Not quite.  Facing competition from Snapfish and other pure play online photo service providers, Walgreens breathed fresh air into a simple, all-consuming consumer pastime.  Realizing that the social commentary was an essential part of the photography experience – Walgreens extended that behavior to a new photo print app with the capability of appending social content to each photo printed.  Walgreen’s customers can select and send photos with social comments to be printed at their closest store and be alerted once the photos are ready for pick-up (users receive up to 7 e-mail reminders – great branding opportunity).  Once again, the simple click convenience married with relevant consumer passions has proven quite powerful for the brand – the photo app represents approximately 15% of Walgreen’s online business and has been further extended to a wide range of popular third-party photo applications via a branded API.

Travel online startup, Georama, saw consumers struggling to discover the right travel destination for their needs and desires from what can feel like a near infinite variety of available information sources.  As the Georama team built their discovery platform, they realized how data powers intensely personal experiences.  Thus, when it came time to begin marketing their service, the team zeroed in on creating brand engagement based on tightly shared individual interests.  Georama demonstrates this technique well in the following example:

Guess Where Photo Ads

With an extremely limited marketing budget, the Georama team began a small Facebook ad campaign to drive brand awareness.  Through a series of quick trials, they soon hit upon a very successful series of highly curated photo ads.  Each ad displayed a unique travel destination with an invitation to ‘guess where’, squarely aimed at Facebook users whose interest graph would likely make the ad a strong, compelling match.  The ad campaign has generated click-through rates between 2-8%, depending on the travel segment, well above the average Facebook CTR of .004%.  The success of the campaign has led to 36K fans with a greater halo of 750K actions around their brand on a weekly basis.

Have you figured out your social utility X factor?

Lots of brands are hanging out on the proverbial social playground, but few have unlocked what it really means to be part of the crowd and deliver a unique and valuable experience that keeps fans continually engaged.  The key is to focus on the human behavior of your customers –  enable the technology to turn up the volume on convenience with the right level of entertainment.  Here are 3 ways to shine the light on social utility opportunities with your customers:

  1. Everyday consumer routines that touch your brand – returns, refills, check-ups and other cyclical activities with your product/service – make em more seamless
  2. Everyday pastimes that your brand can extend – photo sharing, map pinning, reading the news, catching up with family & friends – make em highly personal and relevant
  3. Everyday searches that your brand can curate – best local places to eat, how tos, places to see, things to do – make em hyper targeted and consistent

Don’t lose sight of valuable SEO attributes in constructing your social utility experience – its still the most important ingredient to ensure your customers find & connect with your brand.

Special thanks to Zach West of Walgreens and Nihal Advani of Georama for sharing their stories during #CAMAExpert night

About Michelle Batten

Michelle Batten is a seasoned digital marketing & advertising leader. She has spent two decades in the interactive arena, working with Fortune 1000 brands + start-ups to define and execute their digital initiatives. An emerging media visionary, Michelle is currently serving as Head of Global Marketing for Mobile & Innovation Intrapreneur for Amadeus, a global travel technology company. She is also the President for the Chicago American Marketing Association. Her passions include culture + tech evolution, mentoring, experiential travel and foodspotting.

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