December 20, 2007, 12:00 AM

Online peer-to-peer marketing program a winner for

A recent online viral marketing program generated an online response rate three times higher than either banner ads or links in e-mails for cosmetics retailer

A recent online viral marketing program has taught cosmetics retailer Sephora something about the power of peer-to-peer referrals in marketing its products on A program designed and executed by marketing and technology firm Popular Media Inc. generated an online response rate three times higher than either banner ads or links in its e-mails to customers.

The program, which ran on Popular Media’s Pop Commerce technology, “provided key insights into the viral potential of our consumer base. In addition to generating valuable new leads, our In Girl program provided concrete word of mouth metrics hat will help direct our current and future marketing strategy,” says marketing director Tiffany Lei.

The in Girl program targeted brand enthusiasts who could influence other beauty consumers, and also allowed Sephora to gather leads on consumers in the influencers’ online social networks. Existing Sephora customer were contacted by e-mail with the offer of a potential spot on Sephora`s In Girl panel – with those actually winning a spot on the panel to be determined by the number of online nominations they could garner from others. Those on the panel would receive free Sephora products to review.

The idea was to get participants interested in winning a place on the panel by leveraging their online social networks for the nominations. Those nominations guided nominators back to shop on and in the process, gathered information on both the nominator as well as the nominee, such the size of her social network and the number of contacts she invited into the program.

The average program participant generated 2.5 brand impressions online. The most influential In-Girl candidates recruited more than 100 new brand enthusiasts each and promoted the program on their own blogs, in MySpace pages and other social networking sites.

“Successful participants were able to leverage social networks and motivate a large number of people to engage with the Sephora brand," according to Popular Media. Sephora USA Inc. is No. 190 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide to Retail Web Sites.

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