David Siegel: social media is critical, but you won’t see immediate ROI, Mobile critical too

As we move into a new era, Web 3.0,  major retailers have to understand that customers aren’t necessarily going to come to them. Retailers have to find new and innovative ways to get to their consumers and keep them engaged.

1800Flowers.com is a great example of a merchant that is leveraging social media not only to build its brand but also to make sales. The company made the first Facebook transaction through a campaign it held during Valentine’s Day where users could purchase flowers without having to navigate away from their Facebook page. 1800Flowers also had the first ever online transaction through AOL, which is currently emerging as a leader in online advertising strategies and initiatives.

Despite all its company’s efforts, David Siegel, SVP, Strategy & Corp. Development, 1800Flowers, said in a presentation this morning at eTail that when it comes to mobile and social, the company is still at the beginning of that stage.

Siegel said that social commerce is all about being more than transactional to drive more transactions – which may seem like an oxymoron, but isn’t. What he meant is that a company has to think about being more than a transaction driven business; going beyond the customer’s expectation to create a strong brand and experience. Ultimately, this will drive transactions.

As part of this initiative, 1800Flowers started a content site called Celebrations.com which has around one million monthly visits and is comprised of content that is geared toward anyone planning a celebration that is less specific than say, a wedding. Maybe it’s a football party, or a Lost viewing party, or a bachelorette. “We’re able to leverage our knowledge of content and media on our other sites as well because we see that overlap continuing and getting more aggressive in years to come,” said Siegel.

To spread its message through social networks, 1800Flowers created a “One Less Lonely Girl” Justin Bieber bouquet and promoted it to Bieber’s to 1.1 million Twitter followers as well as his 1.8 million Facebook fans. The company leveraged the young celebrity’s followers and fans and referencing this campaign’s success, Siegel told the audience to also “think about all your marketing partnerships where you can brand your assets.” Think about Facebook, but think about bloggers too, he said. And make sure in your organization people have clear ownership of who owns the emerging space. “You need cross-brand support from PR, marketing, etc.,” said Siegel. “Make sure everyone understands your new business and initiatives.”

In regards to mobile, Flowers (as Siegel shortens the company name) launched mobile web more than four years ago and asked itself, “Are we in 1995 or 1999/2000 when it comes to mobile? Are we in the early stages, or is it going to see gang-buster growth?” At the time, the company thought early stages, but since then they have changed their tune and realized that mobile is growing very rapidly. As a result of that, Flowers has launched a partnership with Digby to approach mobile and is now active in SMS marketing and other mobile strategies.

“When it comes to apps, it’s not just about creating an app,” said Siegel. “It’s critical that you really engage with Apple, Blackberry, Android and figure out what incentives you can provide. It is critical to spend time engaging with the platforms; it’s not just ‘If you build it they will come.'”

Siegel also stressed the importance of the crossover between online and mobile. Flowers is building a strategy where the company will have increased penetration at grocery stores, mass retailers and has plans to leverage mobile devices to check out with coupons, etc. His advice is to have a broad mobile strategy.