The online retailer has spent nearly $300 million acquiring three shipping software vendors over the past nine months.
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JackThreads.com uses Promoted Posts to target consumers who signed up for its newsletters but haven't made a purchase in some time. It uses an ad targeting tool Facebook released in August that enables advertisers to target shoppers based on their e-mail addresses, without sharing any personally identifiable data with Facebook.
An advertiser scrambles its subscribers' e-mail addresses, creating what cryptographers call a "hash" that can't be decoded to recreate the individual's address; Facebook does the same with user e-mail addresses. An advertiser like JackThreads.com can target any of its customers whose hashes match those of Facebook, reaching those consumers any time it places an ad on the social network.
JackThreads' ads feature an alluring image, such as a close-up of a pair of sneakers along with a caption like "Would you rock deez bad boys?" Clicking on the ad takes the consumer to JackThreads.com. "We don't want to seem too 'salesy' because we know they already know our value proposition," Press says. "We just want to get them thinking about us again." The format has worked, as consumer clicks and subsequent purchases have resulted in roughly 500% return on its ad spend, he says.
Similarly, Bonobos uses promoted tweets to promote its Twixlusive sales to its more than 36,000 Twitter followers, as well as other consumers it would like to reach, such as those who like similar brands. The retailer teases the sale with a tweet a few days before its launch. Then it uses Promoted Tweets to announce the sale the day the offer goes live.
For one offer of $88 chinos for $49, it required shoppers to retweet the deal 49 times before it unlocked. It reached that number almost immediately, Fudge says, and within eight minutes it had more than 80 retweets. The sale, which ran 24 hours, helped Bonobos acquire 100 first-time customers and had a 1,200% return on its ad spend with shoppers clicking from Twitter to Bonobos.com and making purchases.
The big picture
Express got a similarly fast response to a Facebook Offer last month for $15 off a $30 purchase, $30 off a $75 purchase or $60 off a $150 purchase. Within a day, nearly 17,000 shoppers had claimed the deal.
But equally important are expressions of interest that don't necessary lead to immediate sales, says Lisa Gavales, Express Inc.'s chief marketing officer. For example, this Offer generated more than 6,000 Likes and nearly 160 comments in its first day. "We recognize that it drives traffic and attention to our brand," Gavales says. "But I don't think tracking the ROI of social is the point."
If sales are all a brand posts about, consumers will tune out. "That's not interesting to shoppers," she says. "What is interesting to our customers are things like our stylists' picks of the week, or asking them to show us how they wore our clothes. Taking a conversational approach works. And while the short-term view of that is engagement, the long-term view is also there. How excited customers are about our brand will impact our sales."
Nearly 4.7% of Express.com's traffic comes from Facebook, according to Kantar Media Compete. A little less than 1% also stems from Pinterest and Twitter combined. And while Express doesn't rigorously track those shoppers' on-site behavior, Gavales says that the retailer believes that those shoppers are more engaged customers in terms of total sales volume, frequency of visits and total units purchased. JackThreads.com's Press says that approach makes sense. The more ways that a consumer interacts with the brand, the more profitable the customer will be, he says.
"Because we bombard people with daily e-mails that show every sale we're currently running, we want our social content to offer other content that will get people interested," he says. For instance, the retailer uses Facebook to highlight a specific sale, such as Ambiguous Clothing's jackets, post interviews with musicians relevant to its 18- to 24-year-old male demographic, and other content, such as an image it posted of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney the day after the first presidential debate with the caption, "One thing both candidates have in common is the blandest of clothing choices. Can somebody turn these fools on to JackThreads already?" It also uses the platform to respond to consumers' customer service issues.
The efforts are aimed at building affinity for the brand, which, in turn, helps keep it in consumers' minds. "We're constantly reminding our fans that Jack is out there and to shop with us again," he says.
Sales may not be the sole driver behind most brands' social media campaigns, but they certainly don't hurt. And the social networks are steadily introducing new features designed to turn around the perception that social media marketing can't lead directly to sales.
Facebook Promoted Posts
Launched: May 2012
What: Lets Facebook users, including brands and retailers, pay to have their posts appear higher in the news feeds of their friends and fans. Posts are labeled "sponsored."
Twitter Promoted Tweets
Launched: July 2011
What: Advertisers can pay to have a Promoted Tweet message appear near the top of search results pages for relevant searches and at or near the top of consumers' timelines. Promoted tweets then scroll through the timeline like any other tweet.
Launched: May 2012
What: Lets advertisers present deals within their fans' news feeds. When consumers click to claim an offer, the news that they've claimed the advertiser's deal is shared with their friends on the social network.