VF Outlet, a discount fashion retailer with more than 70 locations, recently partnered with Stream Companies, a full-service advertising agency, to launch a Flash Sales platform on Facebook. Through a combination of promotions, contests, email campaigns, coupons and integration with other marketing efforts, VF Outlet progressed from having a zero social media presence to generating more than 33,000 “Likes” in 10 months (May 2011 to March 2012). The company then utilized Twitter and Pinterest to promote its brand further.
VF Outlet’s social media journey started with a lean budget and several targeted, low-cost ads based on customer data, resulting in a spike in Facebook “Likes.” Building on this response, Stream Companies suggested augmenting the Facebook ads through contesting, another key vehicle for increasing “Likes.” Each of 4 contents that took place over a 14-month period was targeted at a new store opening. More contests are planned for the next 12 months, according to Jason Brennan, Co-Founder of Stream Companies, in an exclusive interview with Retail TouchPoints.
Stream recommended using email marketing to promote the contests. “There is a direct correlation between success in social and email marketing,” Brennan stated. The choice of prizes also has an impact on the success of a contest, he continued. “If you offer a run-of-the-mill item, it will not excite the average consumer. A gift card is less successful than a trip, even if the amounts are the same.
The two companies worked as a team to manage daily operations of the Facebook page, including creating and posting engaging content. The team participated in conversations with the VF Outlet fan base, responded to questions and solicited feedback. “In the social space, the number one priority is to respond, and do it as quickly as possible,” said Brennan.
After collecting and analyzing all incoming data, VF, in conjunction with Stream, was able to develop actionable strategies.
Coupon Program Augments Social Strategy
VF Outlet also implemented a Facebook-only coupon program. “By looking at the whole business and studying the data and customer insights, we were able to make coupon offers that people not only wanted and used for themselves, but were willing to share ― which, of course, is critical to a social campaign,” reported Brennan.
VF Outlet successfully reached its fan base through Facebook, reporting the following results (as of March 2012):
Increased number of “Likes” from 86 (May 2011) to 33,083
Current “Likes:” 38,573 (as of May 2012)
Weekly total reach: 411,812
Weekly talking about: 2,616
As a follow-up to its successful Facebook roll-out, VF Outlet added Twitter and Pinterest to its social media strategy. To add a more personalized approach, VF Outlet created a Twitter account for the @VFOutletGirls: three Vanity Fair insiders tweeting from behind the scenes to help promote VF Outlet’s products by offering insights into photo shoots and latest trends. “This has been hugely popular and is a great way for VF Outlet to connect its online social activities with its in-store activities,” reported Brennan.
On Pinterest, VF Outlet has 10 boards of photos from models/shoots as well as from the @VFOutletGirls, promotions and window displays. “More will be coming down the pike for Pinterest,” said Brennan. “But for now, if we have an attractive shot of apparel, we’re going to use it to VF Outlet’s advantage, especially since it hits the retailer’s prime, female demographic so directly.”
Tips For Jumping Into Social Media
Retailers interested in entering the social space must recognize that they are not going to obtain metrics right away, noted Brennan. He added that the metrics available from Facebook and Twitter are not in depth, and that the industry really has no real historical experience with what any of the numbers mean. “Thus, a retailer has to be a bit of a risk taker in order to invest in social media,” Brennan stated. “It’s a matter of accepting small increments, evaluating the results and making decisions accordingly.Since you just don’t know what success is going to look like, you must be comfortable with setting aside a budget that is basically a gamble.”
Brennan also suggested that retailers keep their ears to the ground as to what Facebook’s strategy is going to be following its IPO on May 18, 2012. “Social commerce is still in its infancy,” noted Brennan. “For the most part, your shoppers do not make purchases on social. However, this is likely to change in upcoming years.”