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Social + Mobile: Retail's Dynamic Duo

1 Sep, 2011 By: Nicole Urso Reed Response

How social marketing is turning more mobile browsers into buyers.


“Facebook sales serve two primary purposes,” says Sobie. “First, it provides a new way to serve our brand partners and help them to engage with their fans in Facebook. Second, it provides a compelling reason for our members to like our brand and engage with HauteLook in social media. We often talk about the need to serve our core customer where she is spending her time, and Facebook is certainly a place where she is active.”

InStyle Magazine’s iPad app allows users to “try on” new hairstyles by importing a photo of themselves and placing different looks over their heads.

Social marketing success is usually measured by “Likes” and conversions. However, it’s important to view these campaigns in the context of a larger media mix.

“Cross-channel pollination is a key benefit of social marketing. Customer satisfaction measurement firm ForeSee pointed out that, ‘while only 1 percent of site visitors come from a social media URL, 18 percent of site visitors report being influenced by social media to visit a website.’ We’re finding that social tools like Facebook and Twitter really serve to amplify existing channels such as the corporate website, E-mail and blogs,” says Greg Brown, chief revenue officer for Extole, a San Francisco-based social media marketing agency. “Therefore the pitfall marketers should avoid is to measure the success of Facebook solely from Facebook metrics.”

RueLaLa is another sample sale website that uses Facebook to promote deeply discounted “Final Sales” and other exclusive content.

“Many of our members are enjoying Facebook regularly and we want to be able to meet them where they are,” says Stacey Santo, RueLaLa’s vice president of marketing communications.

Mobile access to RueLaLa sales is an important element of this goal.

“Our members love to shop RueLaLa through their mobile devices so they never miss a Boutique at 11 a.m.,” says Santo. “As they often access Facebook through their mobile devices as well, it is a great way to experience both.”

Twitter and direct E-mail are additional outreach channels to tell users about upcoming sales, and Twitter is also used as a front line of customer service.

“@RueLaLa is where our members talk about everything from their favorite designers and style tips to trends and news,” says Santo. “@ruelala_help is solely dedicated to customer service — a direct access to our concierge who is committed to doing all possible to help our members with customer service.”

Liking a brand or following it on Twitter indicates a high likelihood that the user will purchase products or recommend the brand to their friends, according to a study by social media marketing agency Get Satisfaction. The No. 1 reason people follow brands on Facebook and Twitter (36.9 percent and 43.5 percent, respectively) is to get special offers and deals. The second-most popular reason is because they are already customers (32.9 percent on Facebook and 23.5 percent on Twitter).

Consumers can visualize furniture in their own homes using augmented reality with SnapShop, an iPhone app that features products from retailers such as Pier 1 Imports and CB2.

Window Shopping

Print media took a devastating hit during the past few years, but tablets are revitalizing the ritual of “flipping” through glossy magazines, catalogs and newspapers. Fashion magazines fill their virtual pages with rich media content that a print edition could never offer, and instead of impulse newsstand purchases, users can subscribe to the app and have new issues downloaded automatically.

The Elle US iPad app is free, and magazine issues are $3.99 to download. Each edition includes exclusive articles and video as well as how-to guides for applying makeup and other style advice. InStyle Magazine’s iPad app brings an element of interactive entertainment with its “Hairstyle Try-On” app. Users take a photo of their face and “try on” various hair styles before committing to a new cut. They can browse by style, celebrity styles or face shape, and once they’ve settled on a new look, the app enables them to find a local stylist, book an appointment and map directions to the salon.

SnapShop is a free iPhone app that helps people visualize new furniture in their homes. A user can browse furniture from favorite retailers, including Pier One Imports and CB2, take a photo of the living room, and then see how a new sofa would look in there. The app also includes product details, dimensions, price and a link to purchase it directly from the retailer.

The largest online retailers, eBay and Amazon, with apps available for Apple and Android devices, are taking the mobile shopping experience even further and tying it back to brick-and-mortar stores.

During the 2010 holiday season, both retailers announced versions of their mobile apps with barcode scanning, which enables users to go into a store, find a product and then check to see if a nearby retailer sells it for less. In December 2010, eBay also acquired local shopping startup Milo to increase its presence in the local commerce market. Milo is a shopping search engine that tracks inventory of local stores, so a user can search for a product using the app and then go to the store to purchase it.


Nearly one in five smartphone users check-in to restaurants, retailers and other physical businesses using a mobile device, according to comScore. The study found that 16.7 million U.S. mobile subscribers used location-based check-in services on their phones in March 2011, representing 7.1 percent of the mobile population. Check-in services include applications such as Foursquare and Facebook Places. Nearly 13 million users checking-in were on a smartphone, representing 17.6 percent of the smartphone population. These check-in users are also likely to access retail sites and shopping guides on mobile media and to be among the early adopters of tablets, the study reports.

Location is yet another layer on top of mobile and social marketing that enables businesses to speak directly to their target audience. By geo-fencing an advertisement, marketers can limit the geographic range in which a mobile advertisement is delivered, so it is always relevant to people within the vicinity. For an advertisement this targeted, content isn’t always king. The ad can be simple with a very limited-time offer, but it would be highly relevant to those who see it.

Google’s new social network Google+ may also bring small- to mid-sized businesses more local marketing and networking opportunities this year with its not-yet-released Business Profile Pages. The social network, which was launched in late June, is by invitation only at this point. With Google search and an existing suite of business tools and applications, some speculators contend that rolling in a social network would complete the package and shift some attention away from direct marketing power couple Facebook and Twitter. ■

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