Retail TouchPoints: Six Strategies Retailers Are Using to Expand Their Facebook Networks

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Jul 29, 2009
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By Amanda Ferrante

Through a special arrangement, presented here
for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail
TouchPoints
website.

Providing the ability to reach some 250 million
users, the Facebook platform has been established as a pot of gold for
retailers. While experts agree that the common objectives for retailers
should be branding, community building and intelligence acquisition, it
is important to remember that the customer is still top of mind.

“The important thing to remember about social
business is that all of the various parties (retailers, customers, prospective
customers, etc.) all can – and should – be a part of the conversation,” says
Chris Carfi, co-founder of Cerado, Inc. & Author of The Social Customer
Manifesto Blog. “The dynamic is very different than the ‘customer-as-target’
mentality.”

Here are innovative ways retailers are addressing
these kinds of objectives:

  • Whole Foods: The organic grocer, with over 100,000 fans
    on its Facebook page, offers information that’s not only relevant to
    the store, but to the food industry as well. A recent post on its Facebook
    page offered an announcement about the USDA National Organics Program
    hiring enforcement investigators. So while they do provide coupons and
    offers relevant to shopping at Whole Foods, they’re very focused on providing
    more information that gives a backbone to the name.
  • Mandee: The small young apparel retailer, with nearly 22,000
    fans uses the status feature on Facebook to ask their fans questions
    about merchandise and fashion preferences, like what colors and styles
    shoppers are interested in. Who makes the best pair of jeans? They also
    ask questions that provide richer information, not necessarily relevant
    to merchandise, but to learn more about their customers, like ‘What concerts
    you’re looking forward to this summer?’ (because Mandee wants to give
    out tickets), or whether or not you share clothes with your sisters.
  • Sears: The cross-channel retailer offers visitors a real
    incentive to become a fan – a free $10 Sears coupon. Sears currently
    has nearly 25,000 fans.
  • Coach: The luxury retailer offers Facebook fans an exclusive
    free gift, but they have to fill out a form which asks for basic customer
    information and bring it into a Coach store. This effort has potential
    to increase store traffic and help Coach to enhance their contact database.
    The Coach Facebook page has nearly 400,000 fans.
  • Zappos: The e-tailer, recently acquired by Amazon, tapped
    Facebook for a video campaign where fans send in video clips of them
    opening the box of shoes they just received. The company also developed
    an application that enables people to show their recent purchases and
    brand preferences on their personal Facebook pages, creating an opportunity
    to make huge viral impact. Zappos has nearly 19,000 fans on Facebook.
  • Mini USA: Nearly 170,000 fans of Mini are sharing pictures,
    stories and learnings about their cars with each other. “Facebook
    gives Mini a center-of-gravity around which the fans can congregate and,
    at the same time, gives them the opportunity to listen to those same
    customers and learn from them,” says Ms. Carfi.

Discussion Questions: What do you think
should be the primary purpose for retailers on social network sites such
as Facebook? How much does it depend on the type of store? Have you noticed
any innovative ways a retailer has been utilizing Facebook?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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18 Comments on "Retail TouchPoints: Six Strategies Retailers Are Using to Expand Their Facebook Networks"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Social media as the writer suggests is all about being part of the conversation, not having all the answers. The best social marketers understand the dialogue is important on both sides.

The worst still think driving fans to a site and giving a coupon is marketing; its Santa Claus and he’s a non-profit. There has never been a better time to build word of mouth exponentially than with Facebook.

Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Facebook is a great place for retailers to have a dialogue with their customers, regardless of the type of store. By adding useful store and product information, promotions and user generated content, a retailer can engage current and potential customers. That dialogue is part of building the story of the retail brand and creating loyal customers that share their experiences with friends.

Anne Howe
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

I’m not a FB user yet, but on Twitter I (@ShopperAnnie) have had fantastic interactions with @Meijer and @zappos_alfred, @BestBuyCMO, @HillersMarket @WholeFoods and many more. Retailers are doing a great job in establishing useful and rewarding relationships with shoppers all over the nation. It’s exciting to see how productive some of the interactions have become. Another segment using social media well is higher-end restaurants.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Social networks represent a virtual share group opportunity for marketers. The key word is “share.” These sites allow marketers to dialog with potential customers the way merchants used to converse “face to face” in earlier days. If you use the merchant-customer dyad as a model, then one can see the real potential of social networks. Merchants solved customers’ problems by listening to them and then offering solutions (not selling, not couponing).

Listening, asking questions, sharing relevant information, etc, allows marketers to develop a meaningful and dynamic relationship with customers that could lead to significant differential advantage for the company.

Matthew Spahn
Guest
Matthew Spahn
11 years 9 months ago
A review of the top retailer Facebook pages based upon # of fans provides some pretty straight-forward insights into what’s working and what isn’t. And it’s not necessarily the Goliath retailers that are drawing large fan bases. Walmart currently only draws 1,664 fans whereas Target draws 472,500. Sears and Best Buy are at 24M and 23M respectively and The Home Depot is only at 7,988. No doubt their fan base will grow but some are far ahead. So what is it about retailers like H&M who draw 1,154,530 fans or Dunkin’ Donuts and Pizza Hut with 800M+ and 900M+? The formula that draws is creating a community but more importantly, the retailer who is contributing to the community with content as the first priority and promotional offerings more as a secondary priority. H&M engages fans with Katy Perry music videos, fan photos and fun tools like creating your own ringtones. Pizza Hut is creating/offering killer Apps that allow you to play games and also order from your iPhone which is promoted on Facebook. The focus… Read more »
Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
11 years 9 months ago

Not to overuse the words, but Social Media is a great way to create both transparency and engagement. Through Social Media, the retailer should allow the consumer to see inside their company, and better enable the customer to understand how the retailer operates, and how it corrects problems. To only allow good news to be reported would be a mistake in strategy; the retailers who “get it” understand that transparency requires all news, both good and bad, to be shared with their customers.

With respect to engagement, it is even more than simply having a conversation. If handled properly, it can lead to collaboration. Ask your customers what they want from the retailer, and they will tell you. If the retailer listens, they might be able to execute ideas that will ultimately grow their business. The days are gone when all decisions should be made in the corporate boardroom. Allowing the customer to become a part of the process will create loyal customers, and great brand ambassadors.

Michael Tesler
Guest
Michael Tesler
11 years 9 months ago

Seems like those who truly devote a large amount of time and resources to understanding their customers, their business and how Facebook (or Twitter, or YouTube or any marketing venue) interacts will get commensurate benefits. Conversely, those who “dabble” and do it without investing themselves in the process and without proper planning and linking to their other marketing efforts will not get results.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 9 months ago

Social media at this stage in its evolution seems best suited for extending and deepening the strength of the brand. It’s also clear that the content of the communication has to be different than other media in the past. This is not a place for advertising or repeated promotion, it is a place for information, conversation starters and community building.

This makes it more difficult for marketers to quantify the success of their investment in social media. It raises the question whether social media is going to be effective for every retail tier and segment, or whether it will come to be primarily a medium for those retailers with the margin structures to support something whose impact is so difficult to quantify.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Facebook is all about belonging. Retailers have a huge opportunity to create communities of interest, differentiate themselves, and message with loyal fans. It’s fun and it’s free. Retailers who want to engender loyalty without giving a discount should create a Facebook strategy ASAP.

John Bajorek
Guest
John Bajorek
11 years 9 months ago

Social is based on “sharing” and discussion; Facebook, and many other social media platforms enable brands to have a broader or deeper type of discussion with their customers. Just as every brand provides a different benefit to their customers there is not a set way for a brand to use social media. For some brands it is an excellent customer service extension, others marketing, product development/research etc. The most important point is to align your social media efforts with the desires of your customers and potential customers.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 9 months ago
Retailers of all stripes and categories continue to see traffic counts decline. However, that does not mean that the Consumer has lost interest in them. Human Beings are tribal in nature. They love to come to the “bazaar” to talk, listen, laugh, haggle, observe, and learn. The Social Network provides an ideal platform to remain current with these “friends” when they are away from the “store.” Matt Spahn, of the Retail Planet, is spot-on in directing focus to “give the Consumer CONTENT first and foremost.” They are seeking reasons for being in the Retailer’s “bazaar.” If Retailers are in Sporting Goods, talk and share ideas on sports, and let other Consumers comment on what they are doing/using, co-mingling comments from the Pros. If Retailers are in Grocery, the number of cookbooks sold over the years would indicate that Consumers still want to explore recipes, freshness, unique food presentations, etc. If Retailers are in Home Improvement, let the Consumer see some of the outstanding results that other Consumers, just like them, have been able to build,… Read more »
Rick Moss
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Just caught this tweet sent out by Barnes & Noble. (They have about 2,600 followers.) Excellent use of Facebook to convert casual shoppers into fans…

“Don’t forget to participate in our first-ever Facebook Q&A with author Suzanne Brockmann from noon to 9pm ET: http://bit.ly/2Bo3uf

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
11 years 9 months ago
Seth Godin makes the point that as marketers, we’re often consumed with numbers of hits, followers, and fans we get, and forget what really matters…the quality of the relationships we build. Even the source article is quick to point out the number of fans that each brand had and as would be expected, we infer that the more followers a brand has, the better. This isn’t always so. The point is to develop strong and meaningful relationships. A few things need to happen. 1. Respect: Brands can’t treat their followers like fools who will sell their souls for a coupon. In the short term it might work but not over the long haul. 2. Sharing: Both parties have to give something to the relationship. It might be insights about one another. It might be inclusion in decisions. It might be information to make life more enjoyable or easier but something has to be shared. 3. Purpose: Both parties in the relationship (brand and consumer) need to feel they’re getting something out of it. Otherwise it’s… Read more »
James Tenser
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Number one benefit of using Facebook to augment a retailer’s Web presence is the ease of collaborative sharing among group members.

Retailer Web sites are typically executed as broadcast-plus-storefront models, with any interactivity provided captive within the site. Yes you can join a list, rate a product or send a link to a friend, but compared with Facebook and its ilk, this is stuffy, slow and finite.

In contrast, social networking provides a framework for messaging to propagate without limits and acquire its own energy. Marketing absolutists may cringe at the loss of control, but visionaries see how online groups help embed brands into the daily lives of users.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

I don’t care for Sears but I will become a fan for $10. I’ll find some reason drive out to the 1960s style mall and visit.

Facebook to me is like any other media. With more and more consumers not reading papers and turning off their TVs, retailers need to go where the people are. It would only backfire if a retailer becomes an annoyance by spamming too much.

Mike Romano
Guest
Mike Romano
11 years 9 months ago

Social networking is so much more than Facebook and Twitter, yet that is all everyone talks about. Having your marketing department plant a page on Facebook and twitter, and handing out 10% coupons is replicating bad offline behavior, only now it’s online. It represents 2% strategically of what companies should be doing to maximize brand and revenue from the huge SN opportunities.

Internal marketing department skill sets at many, not all, retailers are not well equipped to understand, plan, and execute the best SM strategies, as well as most new digital media including mobile marketing and advertising. Get started down the right path with some expertise. It will be an investment well worth it.

Gregory Belkin
Guest
Gregory Belkin
11 years 9 months ago

No doubt about it, Facebook and other social tools like it offer a lot of opportunities for retailers. Being part of the conversation, and not constantly throwing promotional material toward a fan is a smart strategy for retailers to go.

My only suggestion here for retailers is to consider priority. Social tools are important but more important are good Web-based ecommerce practices (such as effective merchandising practices and say, search marketing). These should be MUCH higher on the priority list. Too few retailers have sub-par practices, and that to me is more important than social media strategy.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

I just got on the Sears Facebook page thinking I would get a coupon for $10. Yep you get a $10 coupon alright…but you have to spend $100 first!!! When Kohl’s sends me a $10 coupon, it’s just like cash and I can go in and get $10 of merchandise for free. I usually head for the 90% off rack so I get get $100 list price shirts for free. Why can’t Sears do that?

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