Four retailers who translated social media into revenue

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – their importance has been drilled into the heads of retailers, so much so that most have a presence on at least one of these sites. Many have all three, but just being a part of social media isn’t enough. Retailers must figure out how to turn their friends and followers into not only brand ambassadors, but also into buyers.

Although it’s hard to measure how social media fans or “likes” directly affect sales, many retailers swear that the larger their fan base the larger their profits – if those fans are more than just people who “hit” like. Having a wide following is still important, but getting those followers engaged and interacting with the brand leads to increased profits.

Several retailers are getting the combo right, including DressBarn, Swisa, a high-end beauty retailer, Gymboree Play & Music, an offshoot of the children’s clothing line, and Tretorn, a Swedish outdoor retailer. They each found a way to use social media to drive sales and traffic. Here’s how they did it.

In 9 months, Dressbarn increased its fans from 150,000 to 660,000 after hiring Conversation, a Manhattan advertising agency to handle its social media. The agency’s first task was to drive social engagement with the brand, said Kristen Link, account supervisor for the agency. The company developed and executed a series of social media campaigns that fans shared with their contacts, which resulted in an increase of Dressbarn’s Facebook “likes.”

One campaign, for example, was called “Share the Love” and provided Dressbarn fans with a coupon for themselves and one to share with friends and family.

“We find that our fans on the Dressbarn Facebook page are very engaged with the brand and by increasing the number of fans we have, we are able to convert more users into Dressbarn brand advocates, which in turn drives stronger purchase intent,” Link said.

How to copy the success: Successful social media campaigns revolve around consumer engagement, said Frank Riolo, Conversation’s manager of Corporate Communications.

“Remain interactive with fans and followers,” he said. “Consumers want to have their voices heard, so engaging with them through responses and rewarding them with things like coupons will create loyalty.”

Also, businesses can more easily connect with consumers through an issue about which they deeply care.

“Different methods can be used to do this, from mobile applications to face-to-face interaction,” Riola said. “Through their PINK PLEDGE campaign in October, Dressbarn encouraged women to live a healthier lifestyle by highlighting facts about breast cancer and how to help those who already suffer from it.”

Swisa Beauty
The high-end beauty retailer worked with Cinsay, a company that developed a video and social media commerce platform, to launch a one-day Facebook campaign offering a free Instant Line Correction sample ($129 value) to the first 2,500 people who not only “liked” Swisa on Facebook, but who also registered. That registration was key because Swisa now has demographics and contact information to use for future marketing campaigns, said David Burrows, VP of corporate marketing for Cinsay.

Cinsay helped Swisa create product videos that targeted “mommy bloggers,” who then posted them and the information about the free offer on their sites. Nearly 1,000 people shared the video on their own social media sites, and the company’s “likes” increased from 34 to 7,000 in just 12 hours.

How to copy the success: The recipe for social marketing success, Burrows said, is combining a blogger network with product videos and limited-time incentives to create a sense of urgency among consumers. The three-part strategy often creates a multiplier effect on social media conversions. In fact, the company’s internal studies show 7.9 percent conversion vs. 1.5 percent conversion using traditional e-commerce, said Burrows, who has helped several of his clients take their Facebook “likes” from hundreds to thousands.

“A percentage of (the likes) were converted to customers by engaging with them on special offers and incorporating video where they could purchase the items or services directly inside the video platform,” he said. “They were also encouraged to share the video/store with their followers.”

The company used social media to extend its e-commerce capabilities which eventually increased order conversion rates, said Tim Putman, VP of marketing for Moontoast, the social commerce solution that Tretorn used to create storefronts on its Facebook page.

The retailer’s most recent campaigns focused on unique, time-sensitive sales events delivered directly to their fans and their fans’ friends through the social stream, Putman said.

“For example, their Facebook commerce exclusive ’10 styles for $20′ sale raised response rates and increased the impression-to-order conversion rate within their Facebook campaign store by 9.4 percent,” Putman said.

How to copy the success: For retail brands to successfully sell on social platforms, Putman said they need to follow four key social commerce best practices: Placement, Engagement, Offer and Virality.

Placement: Weave commerce into the social stream.
Engagement: Make it part of the social conversation through regular posts.
Offer: Provide relevant offers that fans really want.
Virality: Offer fans the tools to share their shopping experience with their social graphs.

Gymboree Play & Music
Gymboree Play & Music wanted to get parents engaged on its social media site. Instead of solely talking about the business model or sales, the company, which has 550 locations internationally, solicited and posted stories from satisfied parents, said Frank Dale, CEO of Compendium.

“They asked them what happened to Johnny when he went to Gymboree Play & Music. Parents love to talk about their kids, and it was easy to get the conversation started,” he said.

In six months, the company gathered more than 500 stories, and its content hub has experienced a 23 percent click through rate, which is 14 times the industry average.

“These clicks are leading prospective customers to register for classes, request more information and share their own stories,” Dale said.

How to copy the success: The retailer was successful because it asked customers to talk about themselves and their kids, not about Gymboree Play & Music, Dale said. The company also relied heavily on Compendium, a marketing content platform, that allowed it to review submissions bef ore posting so they always had oversight. That meant they could quickly expand their social network: Once a piece was published from a customer, the platform suggested the customer share the link with her network, too.

“Everyone likes to talk about themselves,” Dale said.

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