Shopping for a product or service online should be an engaging, immersive experience. Something that helps connect you to a business or brand, entices you to wander and spend time on the site and leaves you with “that loving feeling” or at least some sense of a relationship.
Social Depth Platforms (SDPs) are supposed to do exactly that. Forrester analyst Kim Celestre defines SDPs as “technologies that add social content and interactions (e.g., blogs, ratings and reviews, user generated content, forums, online communities) to branded websites to drive exploration of products and services.”
Connecting Customers with Desires
The companies that Forrester surveyed reported that when they were evaluating products, factors like the ability to control site visitors’ activities and user interactions, customization, reporting and analytics, and the ability to facilitate the search and navigation were all worth considering.
And even though SDPs have been around for a while, they’re not plug-and-play. So while it might be overstating it to say that support and services provided by vendors are key differentiators, they’re import should not be minimized.
Because SDPs can take up a significant part of the marketing budget (the platform alone can cost well over half of a million dollars) Celestre recommends that buyers develop a Social Depth Strategy before evaluation.
Best of 7
Forrester looked at seven leading vendors: Acquia, Jive, Lithium, Livefyre, Salesforce, Sprinklr and Zimbra.
While they each have their strengths and weaknesses Jive, Lithium, Livefyre and Salesforce were named Leaders.
Sprinklr and Zimbra were labeled Strong Performers, while Acquia was labeled a Contender that lagged behind.
Celestre, with the help of fellow researchers Mary Pilecki and Mike Carpenter, used the following criteria in the evaluation:
- Offer the fundamental capabilities for social depth marketing (e.g., blogs, ratings and reviews, social content curation) in addition to primary community features. They also valued vendors who offered at least some social depth features a la carte for customers to leverage on their home and product pages.
- Demonstrate a consistent investment in social depth offerings. More specifically customers had to have SDP on their product list for at least two years.
- Enterprise grade offerings and deployments, more specifically, the selected SDP providers had to have at least 100 active clients and an SDP deployment of at least 500,000 end users.
Here, in alphabetical order, is a synopsis of each company, based on Forrester's analysis.
Forrester think Acquia holds the potential to provide “sophisticated digital experiences," but clients complain the platform is complex, hard to administer and difficult to implement.
While its mobile, user-friendly and gaining traction, it needs to clarify its longterm vision and product road map.
Lithium has good social depth but lacks native mobile capabilities and market presence.
Livefyre is helping clients engage with consumers but struggles with third-party integrations and services partners.
Salesforce has happy clients but falls short on some community capabilities specific to B2C brands.
Sprinklr can help companies meet their social relationship objectives but its vision is scattered and perhaps to focused on projects like integrating new buy Social depth Pluck into its social marketing products.
Collaboration and support make Zimbra stand out, but it has weak services and support.
Step Up to the Plate
Though Social Depth Platforms aren’t new to the marketplace, it seems that what is expected of the vendors within it continues to expand. This is likely to remain the case when you consider that Mobile is still evolving. While many of the companies that Forrester surveyed said that SDPs were a “part of a broader digital marketing initiative” and have helped increase sales, there are plenty of customers who still need convincing.
What that translates to is an opportunity for vendors to better their offerings, not only to serve existing customers but also to gain market share.
Who should ultimately win? The customer. That’s how it should be.