Providing the ability to reach some 250 million users, the Facebook platform has been established as a pot of gold for retailers, and some are taking full advantage of its offerings.
“Retailers that have a presence Facebook can leverage the social network for extending brand recognition, attracting new customers and staying top of mind with existing customers, and gaining more insight into their customers’ preferences,” says Nancy MacGregor Hill, Communications and Social Media Strategist, Real Time Communications. “Fan or group pages on Facebook are a great way for retail brands to make announcements about sales, offer special promotions for Facebook users, particularly for those who refer their friends, and see comments about customers’ experiences, their questions and other relevant discussions on their wall pages.” All of this, Hill says, is useful in strengthening a brand, supporting other advertising and marketing initiatives and helping serve customers better.
An example of Coach’s Facebook Fan Page Ad
“Whether you are a small local business, or even a well known product or service you will need to give some thought to your audience like, who they are, how do they want to be spoken to, what messages would you want them to receive, and what are the tactics for having them interact with your message,” says Paul Dunay, Global Managing Director of Services and Social Marketing at Avaya & Author of the forthcoming book “Facebook Marketing for Dummies.”
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, has done an outstanding job offering information that’s not only relevant to the store, but to the food industry as well. The company knows who’s shopping in the store—customers looking for the best in organic foods. A recent post on Whole Foods’ Facebook page offered an announcement about the USDA National Organics Program hiring enforcement investigators, which was “great news for organic integrity.” 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. They have a strong presence on every major social network, from MySpace and Twitter to My Yearbook and Sodahead, which are geared to younger demographics.
- Sears: The cross-channel retailer, which recently launched “Christmas in July,” 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.
- MiniUSA: The brand provides a venue where passionate customers have built a community. Nearly 170,000 fans of Mini are connected and rallying around what they are passionate about. They’re 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 Carfi.
Carfi adds that retailers need to assess the benefits of Facebook on an individual basis, like what business objectives they can measure. “Metrics can fall into a number of different buckets: Financial/ROI metrics, activity metrics, or others,” he says. “Instead of looking at the Facebook activities in isolation, look at how the whole business is doing (gaining market share and investing in expansion), like MiniUSA, which has seen significant increase overall.”
Dunay, who pens the Buzz Marketing for Technology Blog, says having a Facebook presence, like a Web site, is a fundamental tactic, which calls for posting updates and interesting content as frequently as possible. “Be sure to get your employees involved,” he says. “Encourage them to become fans and drive the conversations to create a thriving community. This is the key to growing your fan base ‘virally.’ Keep in mind Facebook pages are indexable so be sure to write your content with good SEO in mind.”