eSpares, a UK company that is delivering value with social media

Samara Zittin, who is on the marketing team at eSpares, was kind enough to share the approach her company is taking with Social Media.    This small, London-based, company is seeing the benefits from their efforts, you will too.

Q. What is eSpares?
A. We specialize in providing spare parts for home and garden appliances. Our catalogue of spares contains roughly half a million spares and we carry over 500 brands. We’ve got bits that fit everything from toaster ovens and vacuum cleaners to dishwashers and pressure washers. There are 70 company members and we’re located in London, England, and we ship worldwide.

Q. Who is your average customer?
A. The majority of our business is direct to the consumer; however we also have quite a few business accounts using our services too. Generally we like to think that our average customer is an intrepid person who knows that they can save a bit of money through a bit of ‘fix it yourself’ knowledge.

Q. How does social media fit in at the highest levels of your business?
A. We’ve always thrived on the correspondence that we have with our customers. It’s our company policy that you’ll always receive a response from eSpares if you write us; which is strictly enforced by our CEO. It was clear to us from early on that customers wanted to communicate with us via channels other than the phone, email and occasional fax. In response we launched our Twitter and YouTube channels in 2008.  

From our email feedback it became apparent that our customers wanted to share fitting advice with each other. In 2008 we responded to this by launching ‘Ratings and Reviews’ and ‘Questions & Answers’ on our website which has enabled our customers to share their experience and advice for fitting individual parts. At the time this was justified to the highest levels of our business by citing the SEO benefits. Circumspect we did A/B testing that illustrated the products with customer generated reviews and fitting advice had up to a 14.2% increase in conversion rate.

Q. What were the benefits of “going social”?
A. For us the benefits of going social were multifold. As stated above the obvious benefit is that we can now have ‘real time’ conversations with our customers. The additional benefits to us have been:

  • Raising awareness: Simply put, most people don’t know that you can buy spare parts to fix up your oven or that fitting a fridge door seal yourself is possible. We use Twitter to find people who are having trouble with their appliances and we do our best to guide them to the best course of action for their circumstances. Whether that’s simply watching a ‘fix it yourself’ video on our YouTube channel, helping them find a spare part or calling a repair person.
  • Gaining consumer insight: being on Twitter has helped us improve the content and video on our site to directly meet what consumers want.
  • Cutting the cost of affiliate networks: In the past we participated in affiliate networks. We noticed the slow transition from our affiliates being sites with great content that led to new site visitors to sites that strictly featured voucher codes.  Looking at our traffic we could see that customers would select the items they wanted on our site, visit the voucher code website and then come back to our site. This meant that we were paying affiliate fees for the traffic that we already had. We’ve eliminated the use of affiliate networks and now strictly only release voucher codes on our Twitter channel and to those on our mailing list. Our customers still get the same benefits and it’s reduced our marketing costs.
  • Giving us a voice: we’re pretty passionate about what we do and sometimes this is hard to express through our website alone. Twitter and YouTube have allowed us to communicate that we genuinely are interested in helping people and that we want to ensure that they have a great buying experience with us. The individuals who make up our company are genuinely friendly people and communicating this has helped increase consumer confidence in our brand.

We’ve outlined the benefits of following us on Twitter in our Twitter Manifesto.

Q. What processes did you put in place to enable going social?
A. Going social for us was simple to implement as it required no resource from our technical team. We simply nominated people from within our marketing team to champion and run the social media channels. Samara Zittin is responsible for the Twitter account and our newly launched Facebook channel and Michael Hodge is responsible for the eSpares YouTube channel.

Q. How did you go about tool selection?
A. Having tried most of the free tools available the tools of choice are TweetDeck and the webclient for our Twitter account management. To track our traffic and sales from Twitter and YouTube we use Google Analytics.

Q. What social communication policies have you put in place?
A. We follow the Golden Rule of treating others the way that we would like to be treated when we use our personal social media accounts. We do our best to keep pure marketing messages to a minimum and to make sure that our tweets are relevant to our followers.

Q. How many people do you have monitoring the social channels today?
A. As not to confuse the message of our channel we only have one person tweeting from the eSpares account. Most people within the company have TweetDeck installed and monitor the phrase ‘eSpares’. Alerts for our social media channels are sent to a group email address within the company.

Q. How do your customers react to you being social?
A. We’ve gained quite a few new customers through our YouTube and Twitter channels. Our YouTube video content has been particularly important for giving potential customers the confidence to fix an appliance themselves.

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Filed under: Random thoughts Tagged: metrics, Social, Social Business Strategy, Social Strategies, Twitter
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