AM Online

Social network websites offer 'huge opportunities'

Unlike with online sales, the entire retail industry, not just dealers, is still relatively in the dark when it comes to making money out of social network websites.

Mazda has just launched a new car sales initiative through Facebook Deals which offers a 20% discount to MX-5 customers if they use their smartphone to ‘check in’ at five eligible Mazda dealerships in the UK.

To be eligible for the 20% discount the customer checks in on Facebook at one of the five dealerships via the most recent version of the Facebook app on their smartphone, ‘claims the deal’ and presents a voucher, via their mobile phone, to the salesperson.

Many dealers and businesses are sceptical of whether social networks can be used for positive gain on the bottom line. Success can be difficult to measure.

Lifestyle Europe believes it needs to be where its customers are, and has an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wordpress and Linkedin as part of its social network strategy.

The group has a dedicated group ecommerce manager that oversees the social and digital strategy of the business.

Peter Isted, Lifestyle Europe managing director, said: “Those that remain sceptical or who are not planning involvement are missing out on a huge opportunity.

“I have four children aged 12, 14, 16, 18 and I see first-hand the amount of time spent on social media sites.

“Positive gain on the bottom line is not immediate and success is difficult to measure.

"We have taken the option to look long term. We have spent 18 months working on this project and it will take a while to see tangible results.

"We have generated a number of enquiries. However, we don’t associate social media with cost per lead.

“It is used purely as a tool for building awareness, loyalty and relationships with our customers.

"I am confident that in the future we will boost revenue as the social sector continues to evolve and if we are ahead of the game now, then we will be in a great position when the mediums we utilise allow us to take a share of the potential market.”

The group has also started to use FourSquare, a location based social networking website for mobile phones and is developing its own Facebook Deals opportunity, as well as its own social media website called Lifestyle Ladies.

It’s an online community for female drivers which integrates video, photos, live chat, news events and a blog.

Isted said: “Our desire to launch Lifestyle Ladies was driven by the need to give lady drivers an area they can call their own. In time we hope this will lead to an incremental business opportunity and a forum driven by its members.”

All employees at Lifestyle Europe are aware of its presence on social network sites and are encouraged to get involved whenever they choose.

Social media has now been added to Lifestyle Europe’s agenda for its business contribution group meetings which are held with representatives from each business department across its sites.

Any suggestions about what the business should be covering with social networks are raised here and then implemented.

Regular updates of the business’s progress are given on its staff intranet site.

The key to the dealer group’s social communities is the content. Employees tweet about special offers, model launches, news, reviews and blogs about the business.

Marc Matthew, Lifestyle Europe’s chairman, said: “By being out there socially we can get our messages across in a way that gives our customers a choice.

"In recent months we have certainly seen greater levels of engagement. If we can continue to gauge the content correctly to see steady growth we can then maximise the opportunity and further implement it into our overall business strategy.”

Location, location, location

Foursquare kicked off the idea of location-based social networking with customers able to use GPS-enabled mobile devices to “check-in” at real-life locations.

Facebook has taken this idea on itself and launched Facebook Deals (www.facebook.com/deals) off the back of it.

With Facebook’s massive reach of 600 million users, this service will reach a lot more consumers than Foursquare’s relatively small user base of six million users.

Facebook says Deals gives businesses the opportunity to generate awareness, encourage footfall and build customer loyalty through letting customers check-in to their shop or dealership through the social networking website and gain exclusive access to discounts and special offers.

Customers can use the application on an iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone 7.

There are four types of deals businesses can offer: ‘individual one-offs’, ‘loyalty’ which allows customers to claim offers after they’ve visited the shop or dealership a certain number of times, ‘friend’ which allows group discounts and ‘charity’ which makes a donation of the business’s choice each time someone claims a deal.

At the moment it’s free to set up offers through Facebook Deals, but as it is only in its Beta pilot form. It’s limited to a set number of businesses to use.

When the system launches fully, it’s highly likely businesses will have to pay a fee to Facebook to set up offers.

Dealers can download more information about Facebook Deals from https://www.am-online.com/files/facebookdeals.pdf

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