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Retail Trends

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Numerous retailers have dabbled in social media, with varying degrees of success. From campaigns to contests, these companies have seen customer engagement levels rise — and sales along with them.

When Clarins debuted ratings and reviews as part of a U.S. e-commerce launch two years ago, the French skin care and cosmetics retailer had to encourage participation. By 2013, customers were ready to offer their opinions though the Social Q&A platform. The TurnTo Networks solution allows users to ask product questions that are then e-mailed to past purchasers.

Clarins is also using TurnTo’s Checkout Chatter, asking purchasers “Why did you choose this?” Some 15 percent respond; the results appear on product pages and elsewhere online, increasing indexable search engine optimization content.

“We’re constantly looking out into the tech landscape … to see if there’s something being developed that could potentially service our clients,” says Han Wen, vice president of digital and e-commerce Americas at Clarins.

TurnTo says first-time buyers who ask a question or read existing questions and answers are 15-40 percent more likely to make a repeat purchase.

Wen says an added bonus is that the comments and questions are not just about popular products; niche items also are included. “That’s what’s so great about this tool,” she says. “You can get very, very specific questions answered.” — Fiona Soltes

Foot Locker

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz is known for his athleticism, his end zone celebrations and his fashion sense. He has appeared repeatedly in GQ, has his own clothing line — and “Off the field, he is a true sneakerhead,” says Jed Berger, vice president for brand marketing at Foot Locker.

In January, Cruz teamed with Foot Locker and Instagram to create “Kickstagram Cruzday Tuesday.” Fans send pictures of themselves and their sneakers to Cruz’s Twitter and Instagram accounts; Cruz highlights one photo weekly, with the winner receiving a Foot Locker gift certificate.

Cruzday Tuesday is one of a variety of social media programs Berger and his colleagues have put together. “Our social presence is significant,” he says. “We have more than five million Facebook likes. We have a huge presence on Twitter. On Instagram … we have more than 500,000 followers.”

Instagram in particular is a very effective outlet for Foot Locker and its fans. “It’s a really exciting place for us and our consumers,” he says. “They’re there showing off their shoes, and we love showing off shoes. We think sneakers are beautiful, and so do our customers.”
— Peter Johnston

American Eagle Outfitters
A merican Eagle Outfitters turned to its more than nine million Facebook fans, some 230,000 Twitter followers and 36,000 Pinterest followers to promote and conduct the “Live Your Life” campaign and contest. Entrants competed for the chance to be featured in the company’s fall 2013 fashion campaign by submitting photos and essays that show how they “live their life.”

The trend toward “crowdsourcing content” continues to grow, says Duncan Avis, managing director of digital, social and mobile with KPMG’s customer strategy and growth practice. “We’re seeing more and more organizations looking for that.”

“Live Your Life” contest entrants tried to capture votes from members of their social networks to move into the Top 200 in their category. From these groups, AEO selected the finalists each week for four weeks; during the fifth week, the public voted American Idol-style for the winners. Entrants received 30 percent off purchases, and voters got 20 percent off.

Along with in-store signs, AEO used a mix of e-mail, its website and Facebook and Twitter posts to promote the campaign. One male and one female contestant were also featured in a blog post each week. — Karen M. Kroll

Arby’s “The League of Brisket” campaign, developed with loyalty/engagement solutions provider PunchTab, leveraged mobile devices to drive interest, increase participation — and sell more of the chain’s new Smokehouse Brisket sandwiches. Launched in late September, the month-long campaign allowed customers to earn rewards for uploading receipts and spreading the word via social channels.

“Consumers are spending more and more time on their mobile devices — from phones to e-readers to iPads,” says Mary Ellen Barto, vice president of media impact for Arby’s Restaurant Group. Thanks to PunchTab’s mobile web offerings, there was no need for Arby’s customers to download an app. They simply took pictures of their receipts and submitted them directly through the mobile site. Customers could also enter the sweepstakes through Facebook, Twitter, the League of Brisket website, Instagram and Foursquare.

The effort let Arby’s tie engagement into purchase data, as well as increase visibility into the way customers are responding. During the first live week, Barto says, 24 percent of survey participants who checked in purchased the sandwich and uploaded a receipt. — F.S.


Rubio’s, a California-based chain of Mexican seafood restaurants, has an avid fan base. “To manage relationships with our brand advocates, our most passionate fans, we partner with a company called Zuberance,” says vice president of marketing Karin Silk. The platform allows fans to post directly to Yelp, as well as their own Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Rubio’s uses the network to deepen the relationship with its best customers in various ways. “For National Burrito Day we invited guests to share a photo of their fishy face,” Silk says. “We told them to share their fishy face on their own social networks and present the photo at the counter. This allowed them to get a BOGO fish taco — buy one, get one free.”

The net was a school of fishy faces: Thousands of fans participated. “Through the network they created,” she says, “literally tens of thousands of their friends were exposed to our brand and our menu offering. Having people make a fishy face … was incredibly connected to the brand, and it was also very interactive and fun for people to do.” — P.J.

To introduce its fall 2013 line, J.Crew went to its 90,000-plus followers on Pinterest, offering them a sneak peek at the September Style Guide and allowing them to order items before they became available to the masses.

Pinterest users are ready to shop: A 2012 Bizrate study found that 70 percent go to the site to get inspiration for their purchases, more than four times the rate for Facebook users.

J.Crew has several Pinterest boards focused not only on its classic styles, but a smattering of other themes, with most boasting tens of thousands of followers. A few boards offer just a handful of pins with the company’s products, while the remaining feature things like food or interesting, photogenic places.

J.Crew has a presence on other social media sites as well. More than a million people like its Facebook page, and the retailer has nearly 200,000 followers on Twitter. Its YouTube video on monogramming — not a topic one automatically would assume was popular — has captured more than 166,000 views. Another on suit fabric and tailoring topped 183,000 views. — K.K.

It wasn’t long ago that Walmart’s physical footprint was the retailer’s primary calling card. These days, however, Walmart’s massive impact is being felt across virtually all aspects of social media. Among its devotees, as of mid-November: 409,000 followers on Twitter; 32,760 followers on Pinterest; 8,300 followers on Instagram; 34 million likes on Facebook; more than 1,500 photos on Flickr; and more than 9,000 YouTube subscribers.

The company’s Facebook page shows the level of engagement: numerous daily posts, engaging photos or videos, responses within minutes and profiles of individuals making a difference. There’s also an openly published social media policy.

In addition to its main Twitter account, handles like @WalmartHealthy and @WalmartGreen ensure the right company responses at the right time.

Walmart works with the social media marketing tool SocialFlow to handle the volume and inform strategy based on the data.

“Everything we do is about data, which is why [SocialFlow is] so important in building out a good strategy,” Umang Shah, director of social strategy at Walmart, told “It lets us collect information and gain insights that we haven’t been able to do before.” — F.S.

“We know that our guests love discovering deals at Target,” says Target spokesman Eddie Baeb, and “they love sharing the deals they find with their friends.” Cartwheel, a digital coupon program launched in May, offers a way to do both at the same time.

Target offers Cartwheel discounts on several hundred products — discounts on top of other coupon offerings or sales. Cartwheel shoppers select a certain number of these products and receive the discount when they buy them at the store. At the same time, Facebook friends who are fellow Cartwheelers are informed of the user’s purchase.

“More than two million guests have signed up for Cartwheel,” Baeb says. “So far they’ve saved more than 10 million dollars through the program.”

For shoppers searching for and adding deals while they’re in a store, Target is seeing redemption rates of more than 50 percent. “The ease and simplicity of using this product, with the sharing component, is proving to be very powerful,” Baeb says. — P.J.

Whole Foods Market
Along with Whole Foods Market’s official Facebook page, which boasts 1.4 million likes, and its 3.5 million Twitter followers, the company has numerous social media accounts focused on specific store locations or food categories.

Cheese aficionados can like Whole Foods Market Cheese Department’s Facebook page — the page features recipes that call for cheese as well as food-related trivia. Similarly, Chicago-area patrons can check out that store’s Facebook account, which focuses largely on events and promotions: a sale on take-and-bake pizza or a new craft beer.

The grocer’s approach to social media appears to be a winning one. According to a 2012 study by Black Pearl Intelligence, Whole Foods’ Klout score, which measures ability to drive action in social media networks, was 86 — far above the next-highest grocery chains. — K.K.