March 23, 2011, 4:31 PM

Petco uses e-mail database to attract more Facebook followers

The program increased the pet supplies retailer’s Facebook Likes by 62%.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Lead Photo

Petco's Scavenger Hunt helped increase the number of followers on the retailer’s seven social sites by an average of 62%.

The more than 2 million consumers on Petco Animal Supplies Inc.’s e-mail database include most of the retailer’s best customers, as most of those on the list are members of the retail chain’s loyalty program, says John Lazarchik, the Petco’s vice president of e-commerce. 

“If we have their e-mail address we’ve found that it is likely that they’re visiting us in our stores, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re engaged with us online. So the question we’ve had to ask ourselves is: How do you get them to engage with us online?”

Petco, No. 202 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, decided to draw consumers to its blogs and social network pages where the retailer engages consumers in pet-related discussions and presents the occasional special offer.

The retailer worked with its e-mail provider, e-Dialog Inc. to send e-mail subscribers last August an invitation to participate in its Summer Scavenger Hunt.

Each day for a week the retailer hid a letter on one of its sites—its blog, Twitter feed and Facebook page—to build consumer awareness of each of its social properties. In each case, consumers had to engage with the page, for instance, by crafting a photo caption. At the end of the week consumers who unscrambled the letters to form a word were entered to win one of five $500 Petco  gift cards.

The campaign provided a boon to the retailer’s social media pages, says Lazarchik. For instance, the caption contest alone received more than 3,500 comments on Facebook, 775% more than 400 comments, which previously was the most comments it had ever received on a post on the site.

The campaign increased the number of followers on the retailer’s seven social sites by an average of 62%. The number of consumers who Like the retailer’s Unleashed by Petco Facebook page grew 148%.

Leveraging its e-mail database to build its social media presence is helping the retailer to interact more with its customers, says Lazarchik.

“We’re now able to engage more shoppers in pet-friendly conversations,” he says. “The more people we have in those conversations, the more engaging those discussions will be.”

Lazarchik and Laura Saati, e-Dialog’s vice president, retail practice, will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011 in a session entitled “Mobile e-mail: What you need to know to make your e-mail intelligible to m-consumers."

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