January 6, 2014, 2:45 PM

E-retailers perfect their ROI for social media

(Page 3 of 3)

Facebook and other social networks' efforts to bolster their advertising offerings has led retailers to either try out, or boost their spending on, ads. Of the 40 merchants in the Social Media 500 that supplied data on their 2013 and 2012 spending on social media ads, 32 reported doling out more for social ads in 2013 than 2012, and, as a whole spending increased for the 40 merchants nearly 300% to $4.2 million from $1.1 million. Seven merchants said they did not invest in social media ads in 2012 or 2013, and two reported a year-over-year decrease. Of the 32 merchants that reported an increase, 41% (or 13 e-retailers) said they invested in social ads for the first time in 2013.

One of those retailers boosting its social media ad spend is Office Depot Inc., the second-largest online office supplies retailer in the world. While the nature of office supplies might not seem to bode well for social sharing, Office Depot spent 150% more on social media ads in 2013 than it did the year prior, and it's also experimenting with new strategies like on-site social features, Facebook content targeted to segmented audiences, and partnerships with influential social media players who share content on the retailer's behalf, says Emery Skolfield, the retailer's senior director of digital brand and public relations.

During the holiday shopping season, the merchant ran a number of social shopping campaigns on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, including its "perfect gift project," an application that allowed Office Depot followers on LinkedIn to invite colleagues to vote on products they should choose as gifts for office workers.

With 0.64% referral traffic from social networks, Office Depot ranks near the bottom of the Social Media 500 at No. 492. Direct sales derived from those visitors, an estimated $364,800, also fall in the bottom half of the Social Media 500 and are a drop in the bucket of Office Depot's more than $4 billion in annual online sales. But the social traffic and sales numbers are growing fast—social commerce sales were up 350% for Office Depot in 2013, and traffic to OfficeDepot.com from social networks grew 289% to 60,800 monthly unique visitors from 15,640 in 2012.

The fact that even store-based merchants, many of which doubted that social media would ever drive any real revenue, are experiencing measurable results shows that social media is becoming increasingly important, says Aaron Strout, managing director of digital marketing agency W2O Group. After all, other retailers can't sit on the sidelines when nimble newcomers like NoMoreRack are generating $50 million in social commerce sales. l

zak@verticalwebmedia.com / @zakstamborIR

stefany@verticalwebmedia.com / @stefanymooreIR

How to order the Social Media 500

Internet Retailer's 2014 Social Media 500 is available in a digital format ($79), and as part of the online database available on Top500Guide.com. To obtain a copy, visit InternetRetailer.com/social500. Or e-mail a request to Chaz McCrobie-Quinn at chaz@verticalwebmedia.com.

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