May 20, 2014, 2:08 PM

Firing up social media to build a brand

Working with software for managing content in social media, footwear and accessories brand designer, wholesaler and retailer Steve Madden is building its brand image while also boosting conversion rates by using photos customers post online.

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Steven Madden Ltd. is getting a boost to both its brand image and sales via photos posted on social media, president of e-commerce Mark Friedman says.

Steve Madden designs several brands of footwear and accessories that it wholesales to retailers including Nordstrom, Macy’s, Amazon.com, Zappos.com and DSW; it also sells through its own chain of more than 100 retail stores and four e-commerce sites.

When Steve Madden launched a new e-commerce platform last year from Micros Retail, one of its major goals was to build its brand image to benefit its wholesale business as well as its own stores and e-commerce sites, Friedman says. One method of reaching those goals is displaying images of products consumers post in social media.

With total net sales up 9.2% in the first quarter ended March 31, the company is getting a boost from a strategy that displays images of its products that consumers post on Instagram and Facebook, Friedman said this week at the inaugural IRCE Focus: Brands & B2B conference and trade show in New York.

Friedman noted that his company uses software from Olapic Inc. that collects and curates images of Steve Madden products that consumers post on Instagram.

Product detail pages on SteveMadden.com display images that customers have shared on Instagram, and shoppers can scroll to view as many Instagram images as may be available for a particular product. The product page for the company’s Lanii casual shoe, for example, shows several series of photos from customers in a section called “How Others Wear It.” The section also invites shoppers to click a button to upload their own photos from Instagram or Facebook.

Clicking into one of the posted images from the social media sites takes a shopper to a page where they can share the image through social media sites or click to a buy page to purchase the same Steve Madden product featured in the image. “The conversion rates of shoppers who engage with these images have been quite good,” Friedman said.

Shoppers also have the option to log into a Steve Madden e-commerce site with their Facebook credentials, which also helps to boost conversion rates. “The conversion rate is higher among people who engage with us through Facebook than those who don’t,” Friedman said.

The boost in its online conversion rates nonetheless coincided with a 12.1% decrease in net retail sales in the first quarter, to $39.60 million from $45.05 million, which the company blames on a soft overall retail market and a lack of strong fashion trends in footwear. The company doesn’t break out online sales.

Net sales from the company’s wholesale business, meanwhile, which accounts for more than two-thirds of total sales, grew 13.3% in the first quarter, to $265.0 million from $233.9 million.

Total net sales, including all retail and wholesale sales, increased 9.2% in the first quarter ended March 31, to $304.6 million from $278.9.

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