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Last week, both my partner Nikki Baird and I attended the annual conference, held this year at Boston’s mammoth conference and exposition center. The folks at always do a fantastic job with speaker acquisition, and this year was no exception.

Some of the best presentations I was able to attend were in the Social Retailing track on Tuesday. We recently released our first-ever social media benchmark report, where the best performers reported more willingness to experiment with new social channels (and a higher understanding that Social Media sites should not be used to simply shout more of the same messaging they’ve used more traditional channels to convey). Still, one of the major takeaways from that report was that ALL retailers need to see and hear more case studies of what an interesting and effective use-case of social media actually looks like before they are willing to take on more than a Facebook fan page.

As a result, I was most interested in the session titled Best Practices for Retailers to Drive Sales and Integrate Social Media in your Overall Digital Strategy – a mouthful, no doubt, but the promise was strong retail case studies, and the content paid off. Buddy Media’s Michael Lazerow opened with his perception of where Social Media sites fit into a psychology structure well-known to the partners at RSR: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. To his point, eCommerce 1.0 offerings were all about convenience, price, and selection. So while Google may have helped consumers fulfill needs at the bottom of the pyramid (physiological and safety needs such as food, employment, resources and property), Social Media networks enable consumers to address higher psychological needs in the form of self esteem, acceptance, and the respect of others. And of all the shock-factor statistics I’ve heard to date about Facebook interaction, Lazerow delivered the most staggering one yet – people spend 700 Billion minutes per month on Facebook. With the backdrop set, Colin Hynes from Rue La La took over.

Rue La La is known for its exclusivity. In fact, Limited Access is one of the five pillars the company has identified to what makes for a successful exclusive sales offering. You have to be invited to join, and this plays strongly upon people’s innate psychological need to feel a part of something exclusive. As a result, Hynes explained how the brand is using Facebook to “Add another layer of exclusivity on top of exclusivity. ” Here’s how it works. The brand typically offers final sales, online sales events which typically last for two days. Recently, Rue La La conducted its first-ever Facebook final sale, a sales event which could only be seen by the brand’s Facebook Fans. The result? The Facebook Final Sale sold almost as much merchandise as a full-blown sale.

While the retailer also recognizes the pillars of urgency, authenticity, and authority – using Social Media to assist with each along the way – its use of Twitter to spread brand recognition virally is downright clever. The company has a white box truck rolling around Manhattan with the company name painted down the side. If customers see it, snap a photo of it, and tweet it, they are entered for a chance to win a $200 shopping credit. Hynes didn’t mention if the truck was already in use for unrelated promotional purposes, but assuming it was, this represents a zero-cost marketing campaign with mass appeal and potential.

It is also worth noting Hynes title – SVP of the User Experience. If you’ve read any of our recent Store, Omni-channel, eCommerce, Social Media or Mobile research, you’ll recognize this as a baseline recommendation we’ve been making frequently: to ensure a seamless consumer experience across multiple channels, this new title/functionality is an absolute must.

At Ticketmaster, Kip Levin walked through what the company is doing to re-socialize the ticket buying experience. For any of us who recall waiting in line to buy event tickets, some going so far as to camp out overnight, buying tickets online has been a fairly anti-social event, by comparison. Ticketmaster views Social Media as the means to get past that social barrier, and for those customers who want to have a true fan experience, a way to return some of the fun without sacrificing convenience.

Most of what Ticketmaster is doing to date involves Facebook, and from a pure numbers point of view, it’s not hard to see why. The company’s first foray into Social Media begin with a bookmark link on its eCommerce site; 90% of all shares went to Facebook. Since that time, each like they receive on Facebook translates to $5 in ticket sales. Each recommend and each RSVP also translates into $5 worth of sales – as of today, Ticketmaster has a dedicated team of three program managers and a handful of engineers whose sole task is to work on social projects. Said Levin, “It will be double that next year. “

Levin then showed what the company launched just 30 days ago, Ticketmaster’s Seat Tagging feature. When buying tickets for an event, customers are given the opportunity to post their seating location on Facebook – not just as aisle and row information, but as a tagged location in an overall schematic of the venue. Then, friends buying tickets for the same event will know who’ll be there, where they will be, and where to purchase their own tickets based on proximity. What’s fascinating is that when using the seat tag feature, buyers are given the option to share their location with everyone, or with just their own circle of friends. Levin: “80% so far have opted to share their information with everyone. “ I honestly can’t tell if this has more potential to connect you to people you already know who have similar interests as you, or if it will more often add awkwardness to a scenario when two parties who really don’t want to see each other have to pretend they don’t know the other is at the same event. Either way, you have to see this thing in action to see how cool it really is.

Perhaps the most important piece I take away from this particular session is a validation of a message we’ve already started delivering in much of our recent research. In order to make use of the exciting new channels that are emerging all around us, it is absolutely critical that a retailer understand its place in the consumers’ day-to-day routine – this doesn’t just mean how they interact with you, it means why they interact with you. What pain do you help them relieve? Or how does buying the goods and services you offer help them fulfill a psychological need? Rue La La certainly understands how they fit into their customer’s psyche. Ticketmaster does, as well. For your next Social Media project to succeed, you’re going to have to, too.


Newsletter Articles September 20, 2011
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