We are really excited that James Connell, Director, E-Commerce, Digital Marketing and New Media, Roots Canada Ltd. has agreed to be the interviewed in our social media optimization series.
James is responsible for creating and implementing e-commerce strategy and operations at 130-store, athletic apparel retailer Roots Canada. James has led many interactive efforts including web site design, marketing campaigns, functionality enhancements, analytics, and customer acquisition strategies while integrating new media into the in-store experience. James has worked on partnerships with companies such as SONY BMG Music Canada, U.S. Olympic Association, NBC Universal, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Mazda Canada, Amazon.com, and Sears Canada.
James is a frequent speaker at conventions including recently at the Internet Retailer Conference in San Jose. And we are very excited that he agreed to share his views and experience about social media, blogging and social retailing.
Q: Roots Canada launched its corporate blog n August of 2006. Can you tell me about your decision to launch a blog for Roots?
[James Connell] For some time we have been distributing a company newsletter to let employees know about new products, company events, promotions and other news to build a community internally. Since both customers and past staff members had expressed interest in receiving the publication it was an easy decision to decide to add it to the website. By using the blog format it allowed the writers to post content without much technical expertise as well as allow readers to interact with the content and provide feedback.
Q: How has your blog helped you generate new business?
[James Connell] We’ve experienced better organic search results as the largest benefit. Additionally we have seen a significant number of people jump from entries about product highlights and releases to go on to purchase the product. We’d like to think that this was the tipping point responsible for converting the consumer into a buyer from a browser.
Q: Roots is at the forefront of social media marketing. What social media tools or tactics are you using? What works?
[James Connell] We’re seeing great success going out to user groups that have an affinity to the same causes and interests that we do. Whether it is posting products we like on social shopping sites, creating “Insider” user groups on larger networks or buying advertising on blogs. We have been working on a tagging strategy as well as a ‘mail to a friend’ option on more and more content on Roots.com. This allows you to convert your website into more of a communication vehicle, instead of purely a reference point.
Q: What are some of the opportunities in social media that you see that marketers are not taking advantage of?
[James Connell] I believe marketers should look at SMO as a way to participate in communities that could provide insight into resolving issues at hand, identifying trends and market forces. Often if you have an engaged audience they will help resolve an issue you present, take ownership of the end result and partner with you to promote it. Too many times people look at SMO communities as opportunities rather than communities. They go in with their bulldozers and try to achieve the maximum result in a short period of time by buying their way in rather than taking time to woo the mayor and the prom queen to engage the community. Provide value that engages the audience and the reward is incredible.
Q: Social retailing is one of the hot buzzwords in 2007. What are you doing in this area?
[James Connell] So far we’re limiting our exploration in this area to participation in shopping and style communities. We have a number of ideas that are early in the concept phase that we hope to introduce in time for the holidays that we’re keeping under wraps for the moment. Our goal will be to create the sense that other people are using the store too and eventually allowing those people to interact with each other just as they could in a bricks and mortar store. Eventually extending the experience to allow customers in our stores to interact with friends and family online through kiosks and other technologies.
Q: Which SMO techniques do you think are a waste of time?
[James Connell] Anything that doesn’t fit the demographic of your consumer. There is value in almost any technique or community if your brand or product resonates with the recipients in some form. For example a text based product review is an excellent strategy for hard goods but aren’t as effective for apparel since it is so visual.
Q: Tell me about the biggest blunder you’ve seen in SMO?
[James Connell] I’m not willing to name names. But trying to go in and think that you can dictate content rather than engage people in a conversation about their interests or being false about who you are not only shows that you don’t understand the space but also loose credibility. Transparency is key.