The most significant development for Social Commerce will be for sites to lead and support customers up the customer ladder. Each rung takes a person through the higher engagement levels, starting with them getting to know you and your products right through to encouraging and supporting their evangelising on your behalf.
The next release of Affino will deliver on this golden standard in a way no platform has done.
Many years ago (1998) I was working with Carrera Technology, at the time the most awarded independent PC manufacturer in the UK. The main job I had was to give them an online computer sales platform which did everything that Dell and Compaq did, since these were the two market leaders. It became quickly apparent that the key to driving online sales was to surround each product with reviews, celebrity endorsements, nice images (media) and relevant content.
This realisation set me on the route to creating a single unified platform which handled all the content, commercial, media, promotion, community and analytics needs of an online business. This platform became Affino.
Years later (2004) I was invited to Norway by Semco and Innovatorium (which doesn’t exist any more, but Moon Walk does) as they were going to be using Affino to develop an innovation community. One of the principles driving the project was Kenneth Winther. Over a nice beer in Oslo I explained what I was trying to achieve with Affino in terms of building the ultimate online sales platform. He pointed out to me that what I was trying to achieve was to automate the Customer Ladder. The diagrams above and below highlight the very simple visual flow Kenneth sketched out for me on a napkin, and which very elegantly highlight the key stages a customer goes through.
Fast-forward to 2010 and we have a world where virtual goods have become a multi-billion dollar industry. Where people engage in virtual communities and online games (and gaming, i.e. gambling) and are very effectively encouraged to climb the ladder by making one small payment after another. The latest incarnation of this is the advent of the location-based check-in apps Foursquare and Gowalla, a big part of who’s success is their gaming engines.
It is also a time when Affino has evolved to become a leading Social Commerce platform which underpins numerous engaging stores, thriving communities and and online media spaces.
Affino to-date can be best described as an engagement platform. It engages with people on the social, media, commercial, promotional and service levels. Every interaction point is logged and used to build up a user’s profile.
Every single one of the engagement events is also a potential customer conversion event which takes them up (or down) the customer ladder, e.g. a user filling out a form asking for a trial; a user inviting a colleague to look at a price list or to join a community; a person sharing a YouTube video.
Currently virtually all online customer interactions are wasted opportunities because there is a complete inability to identify the type of user interaction and to motivate users appropriately to take them to the next level. What is done online is almost entirely manually or borders on being spam.
Affino will leverage the same capabilities that the gaming engines have for driving billions of dollars of virtual revenues in real-world scenarios.
The key to this will be the monitoring of conversion events, assigning them meaning, badges, points and identifying what type the conversion event is. The badges and points can be displayed publicly in the way that Gowalla and Foursquare do, and act as competitive and motivational rewards for achievement which in turn provide kudos within the community.
Equally it is possible to make only a sub-set or indeed none of the conversion events public, and use them entirely for analysing, rewarding and encouraging user behaviour which moves people up the customer ladder.
When users move up the ladder further conversion events automatically triggers rewards, encouragement and incentives to move up to the higher levels. These can be triggered immediately or spread over time to be more effective.
Affino will track twenty five different types of conversion event. These can be broad, e.g. filling any form or specific, e.g. filling form x. They range from tracking specific page views through to buy and wishlist evnets, networking and social media engagement, sharing on Twitter and Facebook and community participation.
An example scenario for a site might include the following conversion events:
The recognition that users are at specific levels and have completed specific conversion events becomes a significant trigger for automated communications, discounts, coupons, memberships, premium content, premium services, as well as numerous additional member and customer benefits.
Since Affino provides all aspects of the user experience, everything is fully automated, instantaneous and seamless.
Affino will also provide extensive real-time tracking of the community evolution up and down the customer ladder. The Customer Ladder Analytics screen provides extensive charts, leader-boards, analytics by customer stage and much more.
The final piece of the puzzle is that everything is integrated into the Affino Community Manager. This allows you to drill down to each and every member to identify their exact position on the customer ladder and also to manually assign conversion events to them, e.g. if they have purchased products off-line or have attended a sales pitch or networking event.
This is all going to be in the up-coming Affino 5.5.17 release, which will be out in the next two to three weeks. So you won’t have to wait long.