December 6, 2011, 3:34 PM

Shoppers say Target hits the mark with its social marketing

A new report finds that shoppers want a mix of content, deals and fast responses.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Lead Photo

Target Corp. has the best social media presence among retailers, according to a new survey by L.E.K. Consulting. Target is No. 22 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

8.5% of the 2,000 U.S. consumers surveyed said Target has the best social media presence, followed by Amazon.com Inc. (8.0%), Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (5.4%), Best Buy Co. (4.0%) and Macy’s Inc. (4.0%). Amazon is No. 1 in the Top 500 Guide, Wal-Mart No. 6, Best Buy No. 11 and Macy’s No. 17. L.E.K, which consults on retail and consumer products, did not say when the survey took place nor did it specifically define what constitutes a strong social media presence.

The common thread across the most-mentioned retailers is their understanding of their customers, says Alan Lewis, an L.E.K. vice president. “Social media is an ecosystem with a variety of users who have different motivations,” he says. “A retailer’s big challenge is to know how to align its social media offerings with its customers’ interests.”

One recent example of a retailer trying to meet that challenge is Wal-Mart’s launch last week of Shopycat, a Facebook application that culls the posts and Likes of that consumer’s friends on the social network to present gift recommendations from Walmart.com, as well as from about 20 other online retail sites, including BarnesandNoble.com. BarnesandNoble.com is No. 41 in the Top 500 Guide.

The most socially adept retailers do share a few basic ideas about how their social media operations should work, L.E.K. says. For instance, those retailers feature large amounts of user content, such as reviews and product images; offer exclusive deals; and quickly respond to users’ comments and needs. “Those three things ensure that what a retailer is doing is interesting to users,” says Lewis.

Consumers like to be engaged—whether on an social network like Facebook or Twitter or on the more social aspects as of a retailer’s site, such as on customer review pages, the survey indicates. For instance, 60% of respondents said that they appreciated Amazon.com’s customer review system, which recognizes its top contributors, and 51% said that about Target, which asks shoppers to Like its posts and post their own personal photos and stories, such as what their children wore for Halloween.

That type of engagement has a number of benefits. For instance, the average Facebook user has 130 connections on the social network, who can see what their friends are doing in the social network’s Ticker and also through the news feed, the first page a consumer sees when logging on to Facebook.com. 29.6% of shoppers say they have discovered a new brand after a friend Liked it on Facebook.

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