November 5, 2013, 11:49 AM

How on-site social features boost Deb Shops’ revenue

The retailer says shoppers who interact with the features visit 36% more often.

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Because its shoppers skew young, junior fashion retailer Deb Shops immerses itself in social media.

The retailer’s social media manager posts a mix of promotional and conversational content across eight social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google Plus, YouTube and shopping-focused social network Wanelo.

“We use social media to sculpt the flow of content to keep conversations flowing,” says David Cost, the retailer’s vice president of e-commerce and digital marketing.

That formula has helped the retailer attract a robust following on social networks. For instance, it has nearly 1.87 million Facebook fans and, as of today, it has more than 113,000 consumers talking about the brand on the social network—a measure on Facebook of the number of shoppers who have interacted with or mentioned the page in the previous seven days.

While engaging shoppers on social networks keeps shoppers thinking about its brand, Deb Shops has found that adding social elements to its own site is even more valuable, Cost says. The retailer last year worked with social marketing vendor 8thBridge Inc. to add social elements to its site. That includes a Want It To Win It button that, when clicked, gives the shopper a chance to win that item in a weekly giveaway. Clicking the button also prompts the shopper to give the retailer access to her profile on the social network, as well as to share the item she wants on Facebook. Deb Shops also added Pinterest-like Style Boards that let shoppers collect various items on boards around a particular theme such as “Fall formal.”

Using A/B testing, the retailer found that the mere presence of those social elements boosted its site revenue per visit 16%. And shoppers who interact with social elements visit 36% more often and convert at a 220% higher rate than other shoppers.

Moreover, the demographic information Deb Shops gathers from users giving it access to their Facebook information enables the retailer to gain insights into its customers. For example, the retailer had assumed that its plus-size and shoe and accessories-buying customers were typically older than its junior customers because those styles skew older. The Facebook data confirmed that hunch—about 2/3 of shoppers interacting with plus-size or shoes and accessories were 20 or older, while a much smaller percentage of juniors customers were 20 or older. Cost declined to share the specific percentage. The retailer had also suspected that Canadian shoppers would be its most engaged international customers because it operates bricks-and-mortar stores near the Canadian border. However, Facebook data showed that its most active and valuable international shoppers were from Latin America.

While Cost declined to say how exactly the retailer plans to use that information, he notes Deb Shops is “taking those insights to head in new directions.”

Facebook’s demographic information is unparalleled in its depth, he says, which makes it extremely valuable. “You spend years building up your Facebook profile, which means Facebook has many more details than anything else,” he says. “It’s like the most detailed marketing survey you could get. You can see patterns in user behavior that you wouldn’t be able to see in any other way.”

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