March 6, 2013, 8:59 AM

How $200,000 in Facebook ads becomes $10 million in e-commerce sales

An IRCE 2013 speaker details Facebook tactics.

Lead Photo

Alex Zhardanovsky

Pet food e-retailer PetFlow.com posted a large photo on Facebook last Friday of a fuzzy brown and black puppy, sprawled out on the grass, his paws extended and eyes fixed on the camera. The caption read, “I’m adorable. And I know it!”

Twenty-six minutes later, the post had garnered more than 2,900 Likes and 74 comments, and more than 250 people had shared the post on their Facebook Timelines. Forty-eight hours later, those numbers were far higher—13,000 Likes, 250 comments and 2,100 shares.

This type of viral sharing is an everyday occurrence for the pet food e-retailer. The merchant makes a point to post a silly pet photo or video to its fans around 20 times per day—and each of them gets dozens or more comments, thousands of Likes and hundreds if not thousands of shares. And those consumer responses lead to sales—lots of them, says Alex Zhardanovsky, the founder of PetFlow.com.

Zhardanovsky will walk attendees through the step-by-step process he followed to build a loyal following on Facebook, and how that following impacts the bottom line, on June 6 at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2013 in a featured address entitled, “How social marketing became the rocket fuel for a small start-up."

With around a $200,000 investment in targeted ads on Facebook, PetFlow.com has built its fan base from around 20,000 in February 2012 to more than 700,000 today. And the e-retailer is benefitting massively from this highly engaged audience, as the merchant directly attributes at least one-third, or $10 million, of its $30 million in sales in 2012 to its social media marketing strategy.

In his session, Zhardanovsky will also explain how social media marketing is unlike any other online marketing tactic. “The problem with any other form of media except for Facebook, whether it’s TV or print or other online advertising, [is that] the dollars you spend on marketing stop paying off when your advertising stops,” he says. “With Facebook, our fans were acquired and there was a cost for that, but now I can advertise to them for free.”

Internet Retailer editors asked Zhardanovsky to speak because of his prowess with social media and the success with PetFlow.com—founded in late 2010, the pet food retailer is on track to bring in $65 million in online sales in 2013, Zhardanovsky says, with nearly all of the growth attributed to its social media marketing strategy.

PetFlow.com’s social media prowess also shows up in its No. 1 ranking in the Internet Retailer Social Media 300, which ranks online merchants based on the percentage of web site traffic they receive from social networks.

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