The big challenge for social media attribution

Tracking the effect of social media can be a challenge, particularly in regards to attributing conversion rates and sales in areas such as eCommerce. A study just released by Adobe puts social as the source of 2% of traffic to U.S retailers, in comparison to 40% coming directly, and 34% from search.

That’s probably accurate in terms of direct traffic sources to those websites, but it’s not the whole picture. And I have a particular example to illustrate it.

The Passage of Time


Time – an enemy of attribution?

Back in 2004, a film named Fröken Sverige was released, starring Alexandra Dahlströhm. It was the same year Facebook launched for Harvard students, the year after the arrival of Myspace, and two years before Twitter arrived. It was also the first film to star Dahlströhm since her debut in 1998, in a great Lukas Moodyson film.

In March, 2007, I joined Twitter.

During the next two years, I met a lot of great people online, and followed up by meeting a fair number of them in person. One of the people I started following and occasionally chatting with was @Sizemore, who is best described by his About page as writing for TV and film.

He’s a great example of someone who I would have never probably met if not for social media, and whose tastes  are generally not too far from my own – and when they are, there’s normally still things of interest in there.

So I noticed when he praised Fröken Sverige in 2009.

And added it to my Amazon wish list, plus bookmarked it as a film to buy. But at the time, it was pretty expensive. It was also impossible to find on streaming services, and I even checked whether it could be found on any sharing sites.

Now more than 3 years later, I happened to be going through old lists and decided to see whether it was available for a more reasonable amount. A secondhand copy was on offer at a decent price, and a few days later it arrived – it’s now sat next to my laptop to encourage me to finish work so I can finally watch it!

So that film took 9 years to arrive in my house, 3+ years after a personal recommendation from a website, and probably 4+ years after I happened to start following Sizemore on Twitter.

Finally obtained. 8 years after release and 3 since @sizemore  recommended it

There’s no cookie or tracking software which can account for that. And yet, that purchase would not have happened if I hadn’t signed up to Twitter and spent time actively using it.

Can the gap be closed?

Is there any way to close that knowledge gap for a retailer, without either largely removing the privacy of a consumer by tracking and cross-referencing everything they’ve ever seen (Which could be a potential end goal for Google and Facebook)? This particular example stuck in my mind, but the same process is happening much more often and is going uncredited by me, let alone analytics software.

Or should we accept that some circumstances are just unknown, and online word-of-mouth is at least more visible than the offline equivalent?

With current technology, I’d suggest that the trending growth of social media traffic and attributable conversions is an indicator of how it’s really changing, but that it underestimates the impact by a considerable degree. It’s easier for clients who have traffic-based businesses, such as media companies – they just need people to visit their site, which is an instantaneous decision.

It’s also why I always recommend combining a variety of traffic sources, and making allowances for how accurately each can be traced.

But I wonder if any conversion rate specialists have other answers? We’ll be posting a follow up on Wednesday with some answers to this challenge.

Good service, bad service and social media

I went for a quick shopping trip at Bluewater yesterday, and it once again highlighted how important it is to align the whole customer experience of your brand, including your products, service levels and marketing. A comparison of three retail and social media experience sum it up nicely:

Store 1: Uniqlo:

I’ve heard various things about Uniqlo and browsed their stores, but this was the first time I’ve intended to make a purchase, having seen numerous mentions of their selvage jeans (Selvage refers to the method of stitching, if you’re not a denim geek). And the level of service was great – first someone was able to help me find the one pile of the right jeans amongst the masses on display, and also explained that they offer a free alteration service when I struggled to find the right leg length.Then the young lady manning the fitting rooms was also friendly and helpful when arranging the alterations and pinning the jeans, and the till staff maintained that. After 40 minutes I came back and my jeans were ready.

Store 2: Ed’s Easy Diner:

I’m a big fan of good burger joints and Americana, so Ed’s should have been perfect. But it was average for various reasons. Partly the quality of food doesn’t quite justify the price (the bacon on my burger was burnt and rock solid, the strawberry milkshake was mainly vanilla, and the chips were undercooked). And partly because the three waiting staff between them were disinterested at best. Having invested in something slightly overpriced and with a hefty amount of competitive restaurants nearby, seeing our food and drinks slammed on the table or being ignored when we tried to pay the bill really didn’t make up for the food. Especially when I’ve experienced alternatives including the constant favourite Byron Burger in London (for example).

Store 3: Soletrader:

The actual service in Soletrader wasn’t bad – reasonably quick, friendly and helpful. The problem is that they were totally hampered by the store infrastructure. I’ve received a voucher for the store, which can’t be redeemed online. I want a specific pair of trainers, which are never in stock in my size. And although I can order them to a physical store, I really wanted to try the two closest sizes to check the right fit. It’s the sort of problem which turns a normally docile and compliant customer into one who will cause any amount of hassle to get rid of his voucher and never go near the store again.

How about the social media marketing:

When I came back online, I decided to tweet about the 3 different levels of service – good, average, and hampered by store policies.

Interestingly, Uniqlo didn’t need to respond or acknowledge my recommendation, but various friends echoed the fact that instore it’s a great experience (Although apparently their email marketing can be pretty overwhelming). That’s fine as I’m quite happy to follow their Twitter account.

Ed’s Easy Diner didn’t respond which is consistently disapointing. I’d hoped to be reassured that my experience may have been a one-off, but can only assume it wasn’t.

But the most interested in the fact that Soletrader did get back to me on Twitter. I got an acknowledgement and an apology for the hassle, although yet again, someone attempting to offer service and customer care couldn’t actually provide a solution, although they did say ‘we’re looking into a way gift vouchers can be used online in the future’.

More effort needed:

Recent stats show that customers expectations of service and feedback via social media outstrip the expectations of companies to monitor and respond. That has to change, and it has to go just beyond monitoring mentions and passing on details.

I wouldn’t necessarily expect Ed’s to respond with any offers or compensation (though I wouldn’t have complained if they did), but at least acknowledging their was a problem with the service offered and finding out more about my experience may have helped them identify a way in which they could improve their business in a location with a high level of competing restaurants and a fairly captive market. It certainly wasn’t busy when we ate, and yet we still ended up on a table with a jukebox out of order.

And Soletrader really need to move more quickly to solve their infrastructure problems, or empower staff to sort a solution out. I hate to quote the Zappos example yet again, but it’s appropriate for a footwear company. If the marketing team on Twitter wanted to turn an annoyed customer into a loyal one, they’d just need to grab a pair of Onitsuka Tigers in blue/red in size 7 and size 8 – send them both to my home address and allow me to send back the pair which didn’t fit. I can give them the voucher code in advance, and they can deal with the hassle of it not being valid for an online order. But having checked the Soletrader site, it appears of 13 different shoes, they have 3 in stock in size 7 across the UK.

The financial risk would be the outlay on posting one reasonable sized box (About £10), and the risk of losing one additional pair of trainers (Retail £70, so under that). I wonder what their current cost is for customer acquisition, and what value they put on their marketing and advertising expenditure, but without being too engrossed in follower numbers, the fact that I personally have twice as many as their official account means that it would probably be a cost efficient exercise overall – and the fact that I also have a number of sneaker addicted friends (including a couple of sneaker collectors) would surely pay off.

Compare that to the knowledge that if I’d just paid for trainers I’d get free postage and returns to store. But by receiving a voucher which ties me into that store I lose all the benefits and service, and instead gain additional hassle.

Great job opportunity for UK Web Developers…

If you’re a UK-based Web Developer looking for a career with a brilliant and fast-growing company, then one of my clients, Jigowatt (creators of Jigoshop) , might have just the thing for you.

They’re looking for talented and experienced web developers to become a core part of the team, with the opportunity to become a core part of evolving the brilliant Jigoshop WordPress eCommerce product, and also the chance to work on a range of interesting projects for a growing number of clients.

You can read the full details on the Jigowatt and Jigoshop hiring here, but there are a number of things to consider that aren’t in the formal details.

  • The team are great to work with – all very talented, all very driven, and all nice enough that they can put up with me in the office. And there’s a great atmosphere in the office.
  • The company has existed for 3+ years and continues to grow at a good rate.
  • You’ll get a chance to choose what’s on the office stereo – at least when Chris isn’t at his desk and he’s left Spotify running.
  • Almost every day someone brings in cakes and biscuits, which is brilliant if you’ve overslept and missed breakfast.
  • And most importantly – as a free and open source project, Jigoshop is all about the amazing community, whether that’s the contributions made via Github, the designers and developers adapting Jigoshop for clients, or end users, and it’s a wonderfully gratfying experience to be able to help, support and encourage that community to achieve the best results. It’s what is really seperating the Jigoshop experience, and makes it a joy to work on.

I can honestly say that working with Jigoshop is one of the most fun things I’ve ever managed to get paid to do. So if you’re a web developer, you really should check out the ad.


Two of my favourite things – Jigoshop and Genesis together…

I’m a big fan of WordPress eCommerce solution Jigoshop, having worked with the team for a while to get the word out that there’s a free open-source eCommerce plugin which is easy to use, quick to set-up, and isn’t limited to requiring a qualified developer to get it running – even I’ve managed it on a test site in about 10 minutes.

I’m also a big fan of the StudioPress Genesis Framework for WordPress, and their child themes. To the point that I spent a significant amount for the Pro Plus package to have access to all of them. All my new sites run on the various StudioPress child themes, including ResCogs. And in fact, OnlineRaceDriver and FPSPrestige are actually running on the pre-Genesis Metro theme from StudioPress.

So I’m really pleased that Genesis Commerce is now available as a theme to combine the Genesis Framework with Jigoshop eCommerce.

Genesis Commerce combines Jigoshop and Genesis Framework

Genesis Commerce combines Jigoshop and Genesis Framework

I’m really proud to be working with Jigoshop because it allows you to own your store, rather than relying solely on someone else setting and running everything, whether it’s Etsy or eBay. I’m never against using those sites to promote or sell, but it’s the different between having a market stall on someone’s pitch, or owning your own store outright. And being able to use Genesis makes an easy set-up even easier, plus adds some additional SEO benefits and other cool features.

Client solves Ecommerce for WordPress via Open Source

I don’t often write about clients on my blog for various reasons, but I wanted to spread the word about Jigoshop, which is a great Ecommerce for WordPress solution that I’ve been working on for a couple of months now. One reason is simply that it’s a really good product which I can easily recommend – as part of research I played around with the alternatives and I can honestly say that I’d already decided to use Jigoshop to power a couple of future projects before working with them. And the other is that it’s one of the first times I’ve been working on a project which is delivering something via Open Source, rather than using OS products as an end user.

Jigoshop Ecommerce for WordPress


So what makes Jigoshop so good?

It’s worth explaining that the company behind it, Jigowatt, specialises in Ecommerce sites for a large range of clients, using both WordPress and Magento, so they’ve spent a lot of time working with all the existing ways to produce effective and attractive online stores, and have particular experience handling the backend admin side of getting lots of products uploaded and ranking in search for their clients. That means they’ve got a long list of all the features that they wish existed and eventually reached the point that they knew it made more sense to build something to answer all their problems.

It’s incredibly quick and simple to use – even I can get an online store up and running in about 20 minutes. But at the same time it’s also highly configurable when you want to get into setting attributes, localising your shop, and stock management.


The benefits of a true Open Source Ecommerce solution

I was lucky enough to start getting involved with Jigowatt and Jigoshop when they started discussing how to licence Jigoshop, and how they could try and ensure that it has the optimum chance of being the best possible product, and also how it can generate revenue to justify continuing to work on it alongside the masses of client work they’ve got at any time. They had already started discussing the open source model, obviously drawing from their experience with the likes of WordPress and other open source developments and plugins, and they’d also been open and honest on their blog about their ideas – which led to really helpful input from other WordPress plugin developers, for instance, comments and suggestions from some of the guys at RocketGenius, who make the great Gravity Forms solution.

I also whittered on about everything from the birth of the Free Software Foundation and Open Source to the business models used by the likes of Arduino, and slowly the shape of the Jigoshop business model emerged, which was to release the shop itself under a GPL licence.

  • That means that you can download it, get your store up and running, and take payments via Paypal without having to sign-up for a trial or submit a credit card.
  • And it means anyone can build on top of it, whether that’s additional features or themes etc.

The revenue streams are all around specific extensions to the main Jigoshop platform, whether it’s payment gateways or specific themes, as well as allowing donations. And that’s an approach I really hope works for this specific project, because I really want to see Jigoshop continue and evolve.


It’s not just me recommending Jigoshop

Obviously as a client, I might be a little biased, but the good thing is that absolutely loads of WordPress specialists and big independent sites have been giving positive reviews to Jigoshop, reinforcing the fact that it’s a really good product. Just some of the mentions since it launched include Mashable, ThemesForge, and Envato. And there’s a growing forum community on the site which is worth checking out.


So I figured there’s enough to justify writing about a client for once! And obviously if you’re interested in finding out more about the range of freelance content and marketing services on offer, then please do get in touch….

Social networks helping me shop – a quick example

Social networks are an invaluable part of my life now, and having just amazed myself by leaving work, catching a tube, rushing to a shop, catching another tube and still making my normal train home, I felt like sharing it as an example.

(as a side-note, the train has already been delayed by 15 minutes as it’s apparently ‘lacking a driver’)

A debate on Twitter about a news story which mentioned cycling reminded me I needed to purchase a new bike pump as the Presta valves on my tyres make it almost impossible to inflate with my old hand pump – and a quick Google confirmed that there was a cycle shop at Holborn, which is on my tube route home.

But how did I know which one to buy, which one was the best value, and what to do with it once I got home etc?

Traditional option: Phone store and speak to person with possible vested interest in selling me anything they can.

New option: Send a message to one of my network on Twitter who happens to be a keen cyclist.

The new option has given me hourly updates from someone who recommended the type of pump I needed, the brand and model he uses, and what to do with it to ensure correctly inflated tyres.

And anyone else that has seen our conversation is able to join in – plus it’s archived for anyone else searching on the internet, possibly saving other people time and effort.

Which is probably a long-winded way of saying thanks to @CliveAndrews as reinforcing the fact that I now use Google for researching facts like business contact details and location.

But I use social media for quickly getting opinions from trusted friends on almost every subject. If Clive hadn’t recommended the right product to me, I can guarantee I wouldn’t have made my train, and probably would have struggled with two flat tyres for the next couple of days at least.

And just for the record, I now have a Topeak Joe Blow Sport ‘Track Pump’ which is £5 off at Evans Cycles at the moment.

And it looks like:


The comedy payoff for reading this far is that I underestimated the actual size of it slightly, and now have to try and carry a 2-3 foot high pump home on my bicycle!

Is the media having less effect of my purchasing?

You might want to sit down, but I’ve just spent some money on physical entertainment media. Or to put it another way, I bought some books and DVDs for the first time in ages.

I’d actually been looking for a work-related book which doesn’t seem to be available in bookshops, so that will be an online purchase, but in the meantime, I though I’d treat myself.

Interestingly, I’d spent a while choosing the unavailable book, so was at a bit of a loose end, and ended up coming out with three purchases – and as far as I’m consciously aware, I hadn’t seen advertising or media reviews etc of any of them:

Buyology: How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy is Wrong by Martin Lindstrom was bought mainly on the strength of the topic, and the foreword written by Paco Underhill, whose book on Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping I’ve previously read and enjoyed.

Code: Version 2.0 by Lawrence Lessig was purely chosen on the articles I’ve read by him and interviews I’ve watched with him.

And from the non ‘tech geek’ world, I also picked up:
Lukas Moodysson Presents (4 Disc Box Set) [DVD] – I’ve already seen three of the four films, but wanted to watch the fourth, and revisit the first two (Lilya 4-Ever is a well-made film, but is the most relentlessly bleak film I think I’ve ever seen). I’m also using it to improve my Swedish language abilities, and be able to lend ‘Show Me Love’ (the original title is better but far more offensive!) and Tilsammens to the rest of my family – and they all understand DVDs!

I thought I was all done, but there wasn’t any peer recommendation to prove this whole social media thing.

Until I got home.

The first I heard about the Xbox Live only release of Battlefield 1943 was via two friends of mine as we chatted. I hadn’t been online on the Xbox for a while due to the work/commuting/family combination, and as a result, I hadn’t been looking at gaming sites.

And within 10 minutes, I’d paid 1200 Microsoft points (About £10 or so), and downloaded the game.

It’s having a number of server issues at the moment, but the basic game is pretty good, and the online distribution of a ‘full’ game is interesting.

It’s being followed up today by the release via Xbox Live of 1 vs 100, which is an online gaming show with real prizes, which should be interesting.

Peer recommendations and loyalty aren’t new, of course. But generally they’d be prompted for me by either an event (my plumbing has broke, who can fix it?), or by media awareness (this game is coming out, is anyone else buying it?).

It seems as if the weighting has now changed, and the peer/loyalty aspect is what then might result in someone sharing a helpful media review, or just leading me straight to a purchase.