February 1, 2011, 12:00 AM

Don't sell Twitter short

(Page 2 of 2)

For Pegasus Lighting that objective is building brand awareness through its Twitter feed, which it launched in 2009 at the same time it also developed a blog, forum and Facebook page. With greater brand awareness should come more traffic to its e-commerce site and sales, says Chris Johnson, Pegasus vice president.

Most of the retailer's Twitter feed consists of an array of lighting tips, articles, news, and observations, such as "If every American home replaced 1 incandescent light w/an ENERGY STAR CFL, it'd save enough energy to light 3 mill homes/yr."

Mixed in are discounts and promotions aimed at driving consumers to the retailer's web site. For instance, in November the retailer gave away an iPod to consumers who visited PegasusLighting.com and then tweeted what they thought of the site. That helps the retailer introduce itself to more potential customers and establish itself as a resource that consumers and design professionals can look to for information, says Johnson. And it does so with minimal costs beyond one junior staff member spending about half her day on social marketing, along with Johnson and another employee devoting an hour here or there to work on it.

"We don't sell fashion-oriented apparel or shoes, we sell functional lighting products," he says. "That means we need to think about who we're trying to reach and what we can provide them."

The retailer's repeat shoppers primarily are businesspeople, such as interior designers and cabinetmakers, says Johnson. "We're looking to draw people who haven't heard of us before so that when they're looking for lighting, they think of us," he says.

And they have, he says. The e-retailer has attracted nearly 1,060 new followers to its Twitter handle, increased traffic to its blog 350% and had more than 375 new consumers click that they Like the retailer's Facebook page since launching its social media effort in June 2009. Moreover, the number of transactions and conversion rates on PegasusLighting.com have risen 29% and 9%, respectively, which Johnson attributes in part to the social engagement campaign. That's led to a 12% jump in the retailer's overall sales during that time.

"Clearly our growth is not all just related to our Twitter presence," says Johnson. "But Twitter is finding us a way to engage our repeat customers and find new ones."

A say in purchasing

Moxsie Inc. also uses Twitter to encourage consumers to become repeat customers, and the retailer of apparel and accessories from independent designers has attracted more than 119,000 Twitter followers since its launch in January 2010. The best part is the minimal costs involved, says Moxsie CEO Jon Fahrner. The retailer devotes about 10% of its marketing budget to social media, he says, not including staff time.

A recent Twitter initiative at Moxsie is called buyerchat, a program the web-only retailer launched in October to further engage its Twitter devotees. Twitter followers can follow the retailer's meetings with apparel designers through Moxsie's Twitter feed—the buyerchat events have their own #buyerchat hash tag—and the meeting features pictures and videos of products under consideration.

Much like a conference call, the event is moderated by a Moxsie representative. Twitter followers whose comments are deemed most helpful receive Moxsie gift certificates after the buyerchat session, which are typically worth $50.

The retailer says the effort is aimed at encouraging purchases from Moxsie.com by giving Twitter followers a sneak peek of new products. "This goes way beyond the Like button," says Fahrner, referring to the Facebook tool that allows consumers to indicate products they like. "We want to get shoppers involved as early as possible in the supply chain."

The buyerchat events have produced at least one example of Twitter followers influencing a buying decision, he says. Moxsie was thinking of offering a shoe made of a wicker-like material and offered its Twitter followers a Twitter picture, or Twitpic, of the footwear. Buyerchat participants said the shoe didn't appear comfortable enough and Moxsie decided against stocking it.

Bringing Twitter home

Buyerchat is only the latest of Moxsie's innovative means of engaging consumers on Twitter. Moxsie last year launched Moxsie Feed, which brings a stream of Moxsie-posted tweets to its own site. Shoppers who hover above a link can view thumbnail images of products mentioned in the messages.

Moxsie Feed enables consumers browsing products on Moxsie.com to see conversations about products in real time, says Fahrner. "Moxsie staff and other customers generally highlight the best products or best site content in their Twitter conversations," he says. "Now someone can engage with that information via our feed without having to be on Twitter."

For now, Moxsie Feed does not allow shoppers to purchase directly from the streaming Twitter messages, but consumers can search for the items on the site, he says. The Feed encourages shoppers to spend more time on Moxsie.com, says Fahrner, but he did not say how much longer.

If Twitter boosts consumer engagement, it's working and will likely pay off in sales at some point, says Forrester's Bernoff. "Twitter gives retailers a unique platform to show consumers who they are," he says. "If you can do so successfully, the sales will follow."

zak@verticalwebmedia.com

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