January 7, 2014, 10:29 AM

How RangerUp.com drives big sales from Facebook

The seller of military-inspired gear has the highest Facebook engagement rate in Internet Retailer’s new Social Media 500. Learn the retailer’s secret to inspiring customers to Like its content, share its posts and click through to its e-commerce site.

Lead Photo

One Sunday evening this past holiday shopping season, Ranger Up, a maker and web-only retailer of military-inspired clothing and gear, posted an image on Facebook of colorful mistletoe hanging from the rafters. Next to the mistletoe hung a dry erase board scribbled with the words, “Missile TOW.” The merchant coupled the image with the line, “It’s that time of year.”

While many consumers might not get the reference to TOW missiles—a remotely guided antitank weapon—many of Ranger Up’s more than 200,000 Facebook fans sure did. It went over gangbusters with fans, largely current and former members of the military and their families. Within 21 hours, the post garnered 1,252 shares, 4,208 Likes and 79 comments ranging from “LOL hilarious, buahahaha,” to “Love it. Lots of folks won’t get it.”

The fact that Ranger Up’s fans get the in joke is testament to how well Ranger Up knows its fans and how to speak to them effectively. Ranger Up’s Facebook posts and YouTube videos not only make people laugh, they also inspire them to pass the content on to friends. On average, each of the e-retailer’s posts garner 982 Likes, 54 comments and 302 shares, according to data provided by digital marketing firm W2O Group for the just-launched Internet Retailer Social Media 500.

Ranger Up is similar to others at the highest ranks of this year’s Social Media 500, as many are masters at inspiring Facebook fans to share their posts with friends, Like their products or leave comments. The Top 10 e-retailers in the Social Media 500 have a 30% engagement rate on Facebook—more than 10 times the 2% engagement rate of all merchants ranked in this publication. What this means is that of the nearly 5 million Facebook fans of the Top 10 merchants, 30%, or close to 1.5 million consumers, are interacting on Facebook with the those brands weekly—whether it be Liking something, clicking on a post, commenting on it or sharing it.

Moreover, all of this interacting ultimately leads to sales, says Ranger Up’s founder Nick Palmisciano. The merchant’s high level of engagement is what drove $750,000 in social commerce sales for the e-retailer in 2013—as 28% of its total online sales came from shoppers who clicked to the site from social networks.

The role of social networks in driving traffic is even greater: Nearly 39% of Ranger Up’s 2013 traffic stemmed from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube, the e-retailer says. That earns the merchant the No. 2 spot in this year’s Social Media 500, which ranks online retailers by the percentage of traffic they receive from social networks, a measure of how effectively they are reaching their audience via social media.

“The key to this is that we have a page worth visiting,” Palmisciano says. “I post things that would amuse my friends, things that I think my friends would want to know, things that will improve their lives. And yeah, we also post shirts that we think our friends would want to wear.  The result is that our engagement is through the roof.  Anyone can pay money and get a Like. It takes work to get people engaged.”

This year’s Social Media 500 is dominated mostly by small and nimble web-only retailers like Ranger Up that invest time and focus into posting content that speaks to fans and followers. There are signs, however, that some of the larger and older merchants not usually associated with a strong social presence are making a real push to advance their social strategies. For example, Office Depot, ranked No. 492, boosted direct sales from social networks more than 350% in 2013. Business-to-business e-commerce giant W.W. Grainger (No. 473) increased social-derived traffic 158%.

Read more analysis of the Social Media 500 data here, or purchase a digital or database subscription here.

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