In 5 New Ecommerce Lessons on ScentTrail Marketing I explained why everyone should have a store. This post goes further insisting everyone should have a store AND a crowdfunding or crowdsourcing platform.
You might notice I use crowdfunding and crowdsourcing almost interchangeably in this post. With attention becoming as difficult to to hold and grow as money getting people to share, vote and link (crowdsourcing) should be considered as an equal to crowdfunding (money for ideas, products or services).
Crowdfunding + Ecommerce Reason #1: Inventory Control
Threadless.com proves inventory doesn’t have to be so risky. Threadless.com only prints t-shirts with sufficient following. They create to their demand.
Threadless is crowdsourcing their designs and crowdfunding their inventory in the same moment and with a single act – being open enough to allow people to compete to have their design printed. Quirky does much the same for the creation of a new generation of consumer products.
When you do what the crowd tells you to do you win. When you bet the farm on your gut or Hippo (Highest Paid Person) you risk too much. Don’t think this idea applies to you because you are a B2B relationship based SaaS selling a big ticket?
What content should you create? Why? If you had an active “content marketplace” where feedback was consistent your “inventory” risks would be just as reduced as someone with a warehouse and too many bad bets.
I wrote shared why I think there is a $20M+ market in content reviews recently and no one cared. Content marketers who realize CONTENT is their product will fare better than those who insist upon artificial lines between B2B and B2C marketing that mostly don’t exist.
Crowdfunding + Ecommerce Reason #2: Reduce Risks
Risks pile up fast. You buy the widget from the manufacturer and it goes great. Amazon sees it and cuts your price in half. You try to keep the momentum you started and Amazon (or some other GIANT) steps on you like a bug.
Tapping the sentient mob spreads risks. Your marketing is less likely to get hung up when you have solid and fast feedback loops. When I was Director of Ecommerce we set up a Buzz Team who worked at writing reviews. We soon realized our Buzz Team could do much more such as:
- Monitor site for quality.
- Create and fix spam problems.
- Contribute new content on an aggressive and magically random cycle.
- Help spread the word (since their content on our site received generous social mentions).
User Generated Content (#UGC) is the most valuable content in the world and need not be limited to reviews and comments. Give prizes to visitors who find spelling and grammar mistakes. Assign jobs to your most ardent supporters and be sure to create a means of public distinction (badges, special Facebook pictures, special access, etc…).
The more people you have actively involved the less your financial and time risks.
Crowdfunding + Ecommerce Reason #3: Increase Profits
Profits increase when costs go down. Profits also increase when MORE people are involved and paying for your products and services than before. If you can do both, lower costs and increase sales, simultaneously you’ve hit a homer.
Crowdfunding + Ecommerce is a homer. When your store is part of a crowd-based feedback loop you are creating more STUFF that sells better while lowering your carrying costs by eliminating strikeouts. When you only spend money on winners you create more and more winners faster and faster – Internet marketing nirvana for B2C and B2B websites.
Crowdfunding + Ecommerce Reason #4: Increase Social Shares
What is the first thing anyone does when they have content on YOUR website? They share it with their friends across their social net. Crowdfunding is a great way to identify the magic 1% of visitors willing to contribute CONTENT.
Read my post on the 1:10:89 split to understand why those 1% willing to contribute are the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and treat them accordingly. Since only 40% of crowdfunding projects get funded on Kickstarter I suggest using IndieGoGo.com’s modified approach.
IndieGoGo allows campaign creators to keep whatever cash is generated, but they (IndieGoGo takes more). I like this option since it treats the magic 1% better than Kickstarter’s “all or nothing” approach.
If your website was MAINLY a crowdfunding website you might think differently, but this post is addressed to those thinking about adding crowdfunding to supplement an existing B2C ecom or B2B SaaS website. As a TOOL crowdfunding shouldn’t be all or nothing since those who don’t win may go away.
Make sure to curate content from ALL campaigns not just the high flying winners. You never know when someone will turn an innovative corner, so keep your website supportive, encouraging and easy to achieve something even if it is only social support and recognition.
Social Shares are at the heart of the “New SEO”. Google’s post Panda and Penguin algorithm demands a social check and balance for any claim. When your website hosts crowdfunding projects the amount of social shares is hard to beat. Remember to ASK for social shares. Create a “How To Crowdfund” page where you explain the ins and outs of using your website to achieve yourcustomers’ goals.
Your customers BUY what you sell, so be sure to make it EASY to add a project, provide feedback no matter how much the project makes and be generous with social accolades and recognition.
Crowdfunding + Ecommerce Reason #5: Become A Platform
When I wrote how User Generated Content platforms crush websites I had no idea how completely TRUE that post would become. The day a “closed loop” non-social website with 100 pages of “aren’t we great” copy could rank in Google is all but over. The single exception is if a major social diva such as Oprah builds such a website.
If you bring millions of followers along you don’t have to have a platform capable of generating an increasing amount of UGC in ever faster loops. If you don’t have millions who love you already then you must create a platform not a website.
Platforms ask for and receive UGC. Ecommerce is ahead of this game since product reviews have long been lifeblood for online merchants. B2B content marketers are starting to see the need to treat their content similar to the way a merchant treats a product. Platforms aren’t about YOU.
Platforms are always about US. When customers can create and share on your platform visitors are more engaged. Engagement as measured in time on site, pages viewed and lowered bounce rates are central to post Panda and Penguin SEO. Engagement artificially pumped up via purchased links or suspicious events look like sore thumbs to the New Google. Sore thumbs sure to become more sore.
Tell honest stories, build your tribe and open your website so it can become a platform and you will be using crowdfunding to make your e-commerce or B2B Internet marketing stronger.