Photo: Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty
There’s only one thing more disheartening to an online retailer than knowing that a lot of customers are going to abandon their shopping carts before completing a purchase.
And that’s the discovery that a whopping three out of four of them will actually turn around and leave the website rather than endure the hassle of registering a new account.
A new technology called “social login,” however, can alleviate both problems. Offered by multiple vendors (including Facebook) or custom built in-house, social login allows website visitors to log in using their Facebook, Twitter, or other social media identity and avoid registration and password hassles entirely.
This is no small matter. A friend of mine was in a Cost Plus World Market retail location recently and spotted a coffee table he liked. A salesman noted that if he signed up for their online World Explorer rewards program, he could get the table for 25 per cent off.
So he tried signing up via his iPhone while in the store, but found it too frustrating to awkwardly thumb-type all his personal data — let alone create a unique 10 digit reward program ID — on the iPhone’s tiny virtual keyboard. So he left the store without completing the purchase.
This is a sale that neither Cost Plus World Market nor my friend needed to lose. Had he been able to log in using his Facebook identity, he could have automatically joined the rewards program and gotten the table for 25 per cent off while the retailer gained a loyal new customer. What’s more, he wouldn’t then have to remember one more website’s login name and password — he must have over a hundred by now — the next time he visited the store online.
With the latest Forrester research reporting conversion rates of less than 3 per cent in online retailing — that’s the total number of orders divided by the total number of website visits — reducing this sort of shopping “friction” is clearly an imperative.
But social login does more than enable online businesses to attract and engage many more customers than they otherwise would. It also enables these businesses to attract far more valuable customers than via traditional registration methods.
Research by Forrester, Nielsen and others indicates that social login can boost conversion rates by up to 50 per cent. It also reveals that social login users spend more time on a website and purchase more than traditional users. Which means less shopping cart abandonment.
What’s more, social login gives retailers and marketers access to very rich demographic and psychographic data from their customers’ Facebook or LinkedIn accounts that they can’t get anywhere else, including the user’s location, interests, hobbies, purchasing habits, and cultural tastes — as well as those of everyone in his or her social network. This lets websites personalise content and product recommendations to each user and target their marketing more effectively.
But the biggest bang from social login comes from something called “social sharing.” This is more than just hitting Facebook’s “Like” button for a product you like. It allows users to share something they have seen or bought on a website with a wide range of friends across a multitude of social networks — and to add commentary about it in their own words as well.
This produces a large number of word-of-mouth referrals back to the website. Facebook says its “Like” button generates 300 per cent more traffic for websites. Our own data show that each social sharing action generates an average of 13 new referral visitors to a website.
And therein lies the commercial appeal of social login: instead of just going to Facebook and setting up a fan page, web businesses can now bring the power of social networks to them.
Interscope Geffen A&M Records, the division of Universal Music Group that hosts artists like Lady Gaga, for example, used social login so successfully to attract more visitors that they have stopped using traditional registration methods entirely. Citysearch, meanwhile, found that each user comment shared back to his or her social network was viewed by 40 other people and generated 28 clicks back to Citysearch. Retailers like Sears have also adopted social login because it lets them tailor promotions and sale offers to each customer’s unique interests.
The total number of web businesses using social login is unknown. Facebook reported last year that its social login tool had been deployed on 2 million websites. Our own platform, Janrain Engage, which allows users to log in not only with Facebook but with 21 additional social networks as well, is deployed on more than 350,000 websites.
There is no data, however, on the number of websites that have undertaken the non-trivial challenge of building their own interfaces to even one social network — let alone enough of them to mirror the fragmented social media preferences of users today, where even Facebook garners only 39 per cent of all social media logins.
But according to a November 1 report in the trade publication eMarketer, 82 per cent of chief marketing officers worldwide now say that their top priority is investing in new social media and customer relationship management technologies, known as “social CRM.”
In a world in which people spend more time on social networks than any other online activity — and where the DNA of a trusted product has become “a person like you” rather than corporate advertising — social login can be a powerful marketing “force multiplier.”
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