|By Business Wire||
|September 24, 2013 08:07 AM EDT||
Sparked (www.sparked.com) today announced the launch of its mobile-optimized Customer Teams platform, which allows brands to incorporate customers as team members who actively contribute to brand success. Unlike the prevailing social media model in which fans and followers are asked to view announcements or promote company posts, Sparked enables mutually beneficial interactions between customers and the brands they love.
The Customer Teams platform creates mobile-native communities wherein brands can utilize a library of interactive activity templates that entice customers to brainstorm, refer friends, write product reviews, tweet and ultimately drive sales. The gamified environment emphasizes and rewards customer insights and community engagement. Customer Teams are optimized for branded mobile apps, but are also accessible via Facebook and consumer websites.
"We help brands focus on what we refer to as customer productivity," said Sparked CEO and co-founder Ben Rigby. "If you treat a customer like an insider -- a team member -- then they will be motivated to produce real value for your brand. This can't occur if your first move is soliciting likes, shares, comments and retweets. When customers become team members of your brand, you move from customer engagement to customer productivity."
The platform uses SparkedMatch, a machine-learning personalization engine to understand customers' interests and behaviors and personalize their experiences so they engage in what they're good at and what they enjoy. Sparked populates the platform with activities that are tailored to each user's tastes, much in the same way Netflix curates its users' movie recommendations.
After implementing the Customer Teams platform during Sparked's private beta phase, education technology provider Degreed achieved a 22 percent response rate to activity posts, compared to the .07 percent response rate that most brands average from their Facebook posts.
"We have a lot of passionate supporters who want to get more involved with us, and Sparked gave us the ability to really turn them loose," Degreed CEO David Blake said. "The response was amazing."
The emergence of Customer Teams as a marketing concept is critical as customer engagement enters the mobile era. Many brands are still frustrated by one-sided, short-lived social media campaigns that drive fan and follower counts but result in low ongoing engagement and activity. For instance, less than 1 percent of fans who "like" a company Facebook page ever return after the first visit.
With more than 50 percent of all social networking consumption occurring on mobile, the stakes for mobile interaction are increasing. Companies need to get mobile right, and it starts by taking a customer-centric approach, focusing on how customers want to be engaged to become valued members of the brand team, said Joseph Pigato, managing director and head of the Customer Teams product at Sparked.
"When you think about it, what can you really do to get involved with a brand you love?" Pigato said. "Following a brand on Facebook or Twitter, getting email newsletters, entering sweepstakes -- these things still make customers feel like they're on the outside looking in. That's why response and engagement rates are abysmal. Brands will get it right if they look beyond fan and follower counts and focus on productive relationships that create real marketing value. A 50,000-member Customer Team will generate more product ideas, social shares, friend referrals and sales than 5 million barely active fans on Facebook or Twitter."
Sparked also makes its engagement and matching technology available to nonprofits through Sparked Community, where volunteers engage with organizations they are passionate about. Sparked serves an array of high-level clients, including Google, Kraft Foods, the U.S. State Department, Genentech, Microsoft, LinkedIn and SAP.
Sparked is pioneering the Customer Teams concept, enabling brands to organize, deploy and reward their customers as team members who can actively contribute to brand success. The Customer Teams platform creates online communities wherein customers can make meaningful contributions to the brands they love through interactive activities in a gamified environment. Optimized for mobile and accessible via Facebook or Web browser, Sparked brings social engagement into the mobile era.