Following is Part 3 of the Retail TouchPoints series, titled: Next-Generation Social Media. This section focuses on emerging social gifting solutions and how they help retailers integrate social media, mobile devices and the brick-and-mortar store. Click here to download a complete PDF report of this three-part feature.
More consumers are using social media to research brands, redeem offers and validate potential purchases. In response, retailers are working to integrate social engagement and interactions with other marketing strategies — especially via mobile.
By 2015, companies will generate 50% of all web sales from mobile and social, according to predictions from Gartner.
The growth in social engagement has brought social gifting to the forefront as a new way for retailers to acquire customers and create seamless brand experiences across channels.
Social gifting allows consumers to send both free and fee-based digital gift cards to friends via social media, email and even text messages. Digital gift cards are stored on the receiver’s mobile device for future redemption in-store or online.
Applications such as Boomerang, Facebook Gifts, Jifiti, Treater and Wrapp were created to make digital gift card sending and redemption easier for consumers, while helping retailers increase sales via online, mobile and in-store.
These applications and other social gifting developments have helped turn the once manual gift card exchange process into a highly social and mobile experience, according to Leon Perera, CEO of Spire Research and Consulting, a market research and analysis company.
“Consumer expectations are continually rising, driving retailers to provide multichannel buying experiences,” Perera said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Social gifting helps support this goal by ensuring shoppers have a seamless experience through all available shopping channels.”
Social gifting also encourages collaboration among social connections, Perera added. For example, some apps allow friends and family to pool their money then send a shared gift card to recipients.
Retail industry experts predict that the immediacy of peer-to-peer gift giving will bring social gifting into the mainstream within the next year. As a result, social gifting would grab a larger piece of the gift card market.
“The concept of gifting through social channels really has resonated with consumers,” said Zach Smith, CEO of Boomerang. “This comes as no surprise, though, given that Americans consume $100 billion in gift cards every year. Social gifting provides retailers with a unique opportunity to gain brand exposure and acquire new customers. Since gifting is inherently social and highly compatible with mobility, it makes sense that businesses and consumers alike are diving into the space.”
Blending Online And Brick-And-Mortar Experiences
As omnichannel retailing continues to evolve, social gifting helps address a common pain point among many retailers: creating a seamless and consistent brand experience. Because digital gift cards purchased and shared via social gifting apps can be used both online and in-store, consumers have more options and flexibility in making their purchases across channels.
For example, Simon Malls is partnering with Jifiti to help cement the connection between brick-and-mortar stores and consumers’ mobile devices. Featuring a barcode scanner, the Jifiti app allows consumers to scan products then add them to digital wish lists. Family and friends can access the wish lists and purchase specific items online. Once a gift is purchased, Jifiti users receive an in-app notification as well as a gift card number they use to obtain the in-store item.
To make the digital gifting experience even more compelling, retailers can work with business partners to “add incentives, free gifts and complementary items to attract more users to leverage the applications and send gifts,” according to Perera.
For example, Sephora frequently implements social media marketing campaigns focused on the retailer’s presence on Wrapp. By offering an incentive, such as a free $10 Sephora gift card, the retailer encourages consumers to download the Wrapp mobile application, which can boost more sales across channels.
“Sephora has a great following on Facebook, so the company really wanted to energize these fans and get them engaged,” explained Aaron Forth, COO of Wrapp, “By promoting Wrapp as a seamless way to receive and redeem gift cards. Not only does this help Sephora acquire customers, it also helps our company gain more users as consumers discover the other retailers offering free and paid gift cards on Wrapp.”
In another case, Puma, the shoe manufacturer and retailer, partnered with Boomerang to drive customer awareness and acquisition via blogs or other news outlets. For example, Greatist.com, a fitness, health and lifestyle blog, promoted an ad for a digital Puma coupon on the web site. This initiative was mutually beneficial for Puma and Greatist.com: It helped drive sales for Puma, and gave Greatist.com additional ad revenue.
Social Gifting Helps Little Black Bag Drive Brand Awareness
While many retailers are utilizing social gifting apps to acquire customers and drive incremental sales, some are turning to these solutions to help generate brand awareness.
Little Black Bag is a social commerce and gamification eTailer that creates personalized showrooms for consumers based on their style preferences. Featuring designer merchandise at a discount, the site allows consumers to create their “little black bags” by selecting an item that gets added to the bag along with two free products chosen by “site curators.”
Once bags are created, consumers have the option of swapping items with fellow consumers over the next seven days, creating a fun and “gamified” shopping experience, according to Jeff Biesman, SVP of Marketing at Little Black Bag.
“In essence, Little Black Bag is a trading platform that allows shoppers to swap items with other consumers directly on the site,” Biesman said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Our customers are very dedicated to the brand because it’s fun and gives them a great deal on designer merchandise. It’s very rare that a retailer can appeal to both the emotional and rational side of consumers at the same time.”
To drive awareness and engagement across social networks, Little Black Bag has turned to Wrapp, which Biesman considers to be a “very powerful platform to help us expose offers.”
However, Biesman added that the entire Wrapp experience is “only partially about the offer. Most beneficial is the ability to attract new customers to Little Black Bag, and connect to their social accounts. We have instant access to their friends’ birthdays and anniversaries, can directly communicate with these consumers, then encourage consumers to send the free gift cards we offer.”
Consumers who visit Little Black Bag to redeem Wrapp gift cards “are sticking around,” Biesman said. Many are new customers who are “engaging in the Little Black Bag experience, trading items and completing purchases.”
Since establishing the partnership with Wrapp in March 2013, Little Black Bag has seen an increase in brand impressions, and an improvement in overall customer acquisition and retention.
Social Gifting And The New Engagement Opportunity
An increasing number of retailers are testing social gifting applications and solutions to determine the impact on customer awareness, acquisition and retention. As more implementations take place, merchants will recognize the overall engagement value and opportunity of social gifting, according to Shaul Weisband, Co-Founder and CMO for Jifiti.
“Gifting is very emotional and thoughtful,” Weisband said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “The key benefit of social gifting is the ability to share that experience with others — whether by involving them in the process itself through group gifting, or making them aware of the gifting experience by sharing messages or gifts through social networks.”
By making the gift giving, sharing and redemption process easier and highly integrated across communication and commerce channels, retailers can turn potential customers into long-term brand fan and impact bottom line results.
“The ROI of social gifting is measurable, starting from the offer price of the gift, the selling price, total amount purchased at redemption, the gift app or platform being used, and the conversion rate of gift cards,” Perera said. “The process also allows data collection, not only on sales but across the entire chain of clicking behavior.”
For example, retailers can capture a variety of detailed consumer data that can help them design more effective and relevant promotions and marketing campaigns. In addition, “consumer gifting applications can provide aggregate data on the types of users who are giving and receiving retailers’ gifts,” Smith said. “Furthermore, gifting provides an opportunity for retailers to capture rich Facebook data as consumers leverage that network to share gifts. This information can help marketers dramatically improve their understanding of individual users as well as their overall ability to deliver highly segmented messaging.”
Click here to access a PDF version of the Next-Generation Social Media report.