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A New Twist on Offering Savings Through Social Media

abes-market.jpgOver the weekend, I made a purchase online from a site called Abe's Market. I was looking for a hard-to-find product and Google pointed me in Abe's direction. It's a great-looking site, focusing exclusively on "Green, Natural, and Eco-Friendly" products. It's easy to navigate, has an exceptional blog with lots of helpful information -- and it had exactly what I was looking for.

But here's what knocked my socks off. Upon checkout, I was offered an immediate discount of 10 percent on my entire order if I would simply agree to tell three of my friends which products I was about to purchase. I was so impressed by this innovative social commerce offering that I contacted the company to find out more.

Turns out the incentive, called "Share It," was launched last May. The discount is offered with no strings attached or additional buying required. Abe's philosophy about all this is that since we're already sharing our lives through Twitter, Facebook and other sites, shopping shouldn't be any different.

Here's the thinking behind the "Share It" program: First, there's nothing more powerful than a friend telling a friend to buy a product. Secondly, the rewards are instantaneous. Other promotions invite you to share with your family or friends to get a discount, but those folks have to buy something before you get your reward. Abe's "Share It" feature gives shoppers an instant discount -- regardless of whether their friends buy anything from the site or not.

Sounds good on paper, but how has "Share It" fared in the eight months or so since inception? The company has seen product orders skyrocket by 900 percent! Talk about viral marketing, this program offers a pass-along rate that rivals a celebrity rehab rumor on TMZ.

Consider these stats:
  • About 50 percent of Abe's shoppers choose the "Share It" option.
  • Those shoppers who elect to "Share It" spend 25 percent more on the site than customers who don't.
  • A whopping 36 percent of those family members or friends who are at the receiving end of these referrals (known as "sharees") visit Abe's upon opening the email sent to them by the site. And, of course, these sharees are attracted to Abe's by the promise of an immediate 10 percent off their purchases.
  • As a result of this successful program, Abe's has been able to attract sellers, growing its vendor base to more than 300 manufacturers of green and eco-friendly goods.
Obviously, the "Share It" program has taken off like a rocket for this organic enterprise. But Abe's is not resting on its Laurels and Hardy's. The company just launched another initiative called "Abe's Live," a take-off on the popular QVC concept with a little farmer's market thrown into the mix. By giving consumers the opportunity to meet the people behind the goods it sells through a series of live, online broadcasts, "Abe's Live" personalizes what would otherwise be a cold internet purchase.

Abe's offerings are folksy, non-intrusive, subtle, and profitable. Just what you'd expect from a natural products marketplace.

Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.

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