Needle Unveils Advocate Marketing Cloud

Allison Howen
by Allison Howen 23 Feb, 2016

Customer advocate solutions provider Needle has unveiled the Advocate Marketing Cloud, which is a new suite of products designed to help marketers and ecommerce retailers generate higher quality traffic, deliver better online shopping experiences and drive sales.

The Advocate Marketing Cloud is unique in its ability to help ecommerce retailers activate their passionate customers across the marketing funnel to create a more trusted online shopping experience. In fact, new Needle research reveals that 93 percent of brand advocates feel they are a better marketing asset for the brands they represent than sales associates - and they may be right. For example, in Q4 2015 Needle advocates interacted live with online shoppers more than 56,000 times over the Black Friday weekend and generated $3.6 million in sales.

"Our advocates - a community of golfers and golf equipment expert brand loyalists - enable TaylorMade to deliver custom, personal experiences to each shopper on our website," said John Gonsalves, VP of Direct to Consumer at TaylorMade - an early adopter of Needle's Advocate Marketing Cloud. "The value of Needle's marketing technology not only provides an invaluable resource to our shoppers, but has also had a measurable impact on our average order value, conversion rate and customer satisfaction scores."

Key features of the Advocate Marketing Cloud include:

Advocated Generated Content - this feature gives online retailers the ability to collect photo and video product demos from advocates, which can be leveraged on website and social channels to assist customers during the discovery phase.

Answers - this feature also targets customers in the discovery phase, as it enables advocates to provide on-demand answers to customers who may not want to engage in conversation but have questions that are keeping them from completing their purchase. For example, shoppers can ask a question on a product page and receive a pre-populated answer from an advocate immediately.

List Builder - this feature uses advocates to aid in the customer acquisition process by providing a natural way to harvest emails. It is important to note that Needle's advocate study found that 91 percent of unidentified online shoppers are willing to share their email addresses.

Additional features, such as Insights, Q & A Responder, Advocate SEO and Ads, will be rolled out later this year.

"Needle's Advocate Marketing Cloud naturally extends our existing feature set, enabling credible, trusted guidance further up the funnel during the discovery phase of the shopper's journey," said Needle President and COO, Scott Pulsipher. "Advocates provide the unbiased, authentic advice shoppers crave when making a purchasing decision. Our desire with the launch of our expanded offering is the same as with Needle: to make ecommerce more trusted and efficient."

It is also important to note that Needles' advocate study is shedding light on why advocates are such a valuable marketing asset. According to the data, 83 percent of advocates say their biggest value comes from sharing personal anecdotes as a result of using the product either every day (62 percent) or several times a week (19 percent). What's more, 84 percent of advocates say they receive personal questions that shoppers would never consider asking a live sales associate, proving the personal and trusted connection between advocate and customer.

"Customers want unfettered access to others like them. They value the ability to learn from others, and they like to engage in free-form discussions that help them grow and their organization get more value from a product. Connecting advocates with each other provides an easy way to enable these conversations," said Hank Barnes, Research Vice President at Gartner.

As a result of their experience and trustworthiness, 42 percent of advocates say their interaction with a shopper converts to a sale 25 percent of the time, while 30 percent of advocates say it converts to sales 50 percent of more of the time. 

Lastly, Needle's study shows that 51 percent of respondents most often receive questions related to size, style and product details, but they also receive questions that traditional sales associates cannot answer, such as questions about their own personal use of the product (15 percent) and to compare two or more products from a different retailer (5 percent). Moreover, advocates found that after sharing personal advice with customers, the customer is more likely to offer direct feedback on things like website design, product quality and overall brand impressions.