The continual growth of social media has encouraged brands to take a new approach to customer acquisition and engagement strategies: Rather than using Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to push out marketing messages and offers, best-in-class retailers are utilizing these channels to initiate dialogue with consumers, build buzz and encourage digital word-of-mouth.
Retailers also are leveraging new commerce models, store strategies and offline marketing techniques that incorporate and align with today’s interactive social media principles.
During a panel discussion at the Social Retail Summit, titled Building Fashion Communities, David Fudge, Director of Consumer Engagement and Innovation for Bonobos, and Jen Rubio, Head of Social Media at Warby Parker, shared how their brands harness the power of social advocates to increase brand awareness and drive purchases.
Tapping Social Networks To Improve Customer Experiences
Since Bonobos’ inception online in 2007, the men’s clothing retailer has strived to create a more enjoyable and seamless shopping experience for its target consumers. For example, its “Customer Service Ninjas” have helped humanize the brand and differentiate itself in a competitive marketplace, Fudge explained.
“Customer service is a big part of our brand,” Fudge said. “As such, our Customer Service Ninjas respond to requests and questions via Facebook and Twitter.” In fact, approximately 25% of Bonobos’ shopper-based feedback stems from social channels, Fudge reported, making Facebook and Twitter communication imperative to positive customer sentiment.
While customer service is a vital asset to social media success, brands also must stand out in the space by utilizing compelling strategies that align with their brand image and target consumers.
“The Bonobos brand was built with the goal of appealing to men who simply don’t like to shop, so we really focus on being irreverent and fun,” Fudge said. “Our target customers don’t care about the big trend of the season or if they need a certain kind of shoe because it was on every fashion runway. They care about practical situations.”
To boost engagement of this target audience across Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, Fudge said Bonobos holds social media-infused contests that “cater to the little kid in the heart of every man, without being too juvenile.” For example, for one campaign, the brand scattered digital Easter eggs featuring promo codes and free goods across social platforms.
“We used Twitter to feed clues about where the eggs were located,” Fudge explained. “We also held a promotion on Pinterest: If customers ‘re-pinned’ Bonobos photos at least 1,000 times, we unlocked a $1,000 gift card.”
Warby Parker, a specialty eyewear retailer, also puts a social twist on its product offerings. While buying eyewear may seem like a simple process, the retailer adds new life to online shopping by allowing seamless social sharing, according to Rubio. Once shoppers complete a purchase, they can customize a message and share their product of choice with friends and family via Facebook, Twitter and email.
Increasing Awareness Of Unique Service Offerings
Warby Parker also adopted multiple social strategies to spread word-of-mouth on its “try-before-you-buy” model.
Through this initiative, consumers can have five different pairs of glasses shipped to them for use over one week. After the trial period is complete and the final purchase decision is made, shoppers return all glasses and receive a new pair once shoppers make a purchase.
To promote its “try-before-you-buy” business model, Warby Parker encourages shoppers to take pictures of their potential purchases, post them on Facebook and share them on Twitter using a specific hashtag. During a social push in 2011, more than 12,000 photos of shoppers decked out in Warby Parker eyewear were posted on the brand’s Facebook wall, Rubio reported.
“Our try-before-you-buy model is a huge part of our overall brand strategy; it really makes the eyewear decision-making process a lot easier for our consumers,” Rubio said. Additionally, consumers utilizing the service help increase awareness across social networks, she said: “Whether they’re sharing images on their own walls or putting them on our Facebook page, consumers are receiving feedback from us as well as from peers.”
Making The Move To Multichannel
While Bonobos and Warby Parker initially built their brands online, both are making strides into the physical retail world.
Starting September 2012, Bonobos apparel will be available for purchase in approximately 70 Nordstrom locations nationwide, Fudge reported. Moreover, the merchant recently opened a selection of Guide Shops in Boston and New York City, which act as e-Commerce showrooms for customers.
Each Guide Shop features in-store associates and apparel for visitors to “try before they buy.” This approach “is an extension of our customer service strategy,” Fudge noted, “and makes the experience more personable.”
As Bonobos continued to grow, “multichannel retail became inevitable,” Fudge said. “A lot of our customers don’t mind an online-only model, but sometimes they want opinions from friends and family before completing a purchase. Our partnership with Nordstrom, in addition to our Guide Shops, help expand our visibility in a very strategic way.”
Warby Parker also has established itself as a multichannel retailer by forming partnerships with boutiques through which visitors can try on eyewear then complete purchases online. The brand will be opening its first brick-and-mortar location in SoHo, New York City, prior to the 2012 holiday season.