Savvy brands and retailers are taking advantage of social media to build holiday sales this season. From sophisticated SaaS applications, which provide software on demand via a licensing fee, to local, targeted marketing campaigns, retailers are working hard to make this holiday season count.
Just ask Casey Simmons, co-owner of Stuff in Kansas City, MO. She attributes much of the store’s revenue growth over the past two years to making technology and social media integral parts of their marketing strategy.
For Dan Gordon of Samuel Gordon Jewelers, a high-end, independent, family-owned jewelry store located in Oklahoma City, OK, leveraging technology and social media is helping his store reach their lofty seasonal goals. He started by targeting the purge of some old inventory by the traditional “fire sale” of days gone by on its digital head. He created a campaign called Jewelry Friendzy, which was designed to sell jewelry at very reduced prices and offer discounts to people based on how many friends they referred.
The company used TV, Facebook and Twitter, to create excitement about the campaign’s savings. Since Jewelry Friendzy’s November 15th launch, Dan estimated they were about 30 percent of the way to their goal of selling $1 million in inventory by year-end (as of 12/8/10). Given the fact that the holiday season accounts for one-third of their annual sales volume, and that the majority of buying takes place in the last two weeks of the year, he’s excited about the store’s chances of reaching its goal.
Dan’s got social media figured out. “When customers see me on TV,” he says, “they know what I look like and I can tell them what we’ve got going on. Then, when they connect with me on Facebook or on Twitter, it’s like they really know me. We have conversations and interact with one another. Bottom line -- I’ve earned their trust and their respect and now I can ask for the sale.”
At the end of the day, using social media to enhance your business is more about building brand awareness and retaining customer loyalty, both of which are your strengths as a small business owner. Luckily, being a tech wizard isn’t a requirement. Here are some low-cost options to help you figure out the tech stuff, so you can start implementing a social media strategy into your holiday business game plan.
Get Your Customers to “Like” You and “Check In” Online
Context Optional is software that lets brands build and manage a presence on Facebook, but it goes deeper than that. It allows brands to offer coupons, track the locations of customers, offer special deals based on check-ins, and also monitor the stream to see what people are talking about so they can tailor their offerings accordingly. Big retailers like Kohl’s and Safeway are currently using the software, soon to be joined by Toys ‘R Us, Radio Shack, and other national retailers.
Of course, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on sophisticated software to use social media to drive sales.
Foursquare and Gowalla are location-based platforms that allow users to check in when they visit somewhere and easily share those updates on Facebook and Twitter, letting their friends know where they are and what they’re doing. You can easily visit your company page (and yes, that means you should have one!) on these sites to see who is checking in, then reach out to them on Twitter and thank them for their business. Then, invite them back with some kind of an offer or other special incentive.
Retailers also use Foursquare, Gowalla and Twitter to post specials and discounts, as well as to announce special events or drive traffic during slow periods. With mobile devices clutched firmly in the majority of hands today, using location-based technology and offering targeted specials and deals when prospective customers are in your area is paying off for a wide range of businesses, from retailers, restaurants, and bars to museums, entertainment venues, and even hardware stores.
Offering Deals and Driving Online Sales
Big Commerce, a shopping solution that you can plug into your Facebook Wall, allows you to drive sales on your Facebook page, and it’s affordable and easy to use. The service allows brick-and-mortar stores the luxury of dipping their toes into e-commerce without the burden of a huge financial commitment.
WildFire has rolled out an app called Group Deals that brings a Groupon-like experience to Facebook. They’ve partnered with PayPal for this initiative, enabling consumers to make purchases of the various “daily deals” seamlessly through individual PayPal accounts. Brands can use the WildFire app to manage all aspects of setting up their deals, defining parameters and guidelines, and then publishing the deal to its Facebook wall and even to the company’s website.
Sound good? Yes. Time consuming, of course. But it’s worth it, especially with the holiday season at stake. And the best thing about the majority of these apps and platforms is that they are relatively inexpensive -- or free. They’re affordable, easy to use, and as long as you’re willing to invest the time in setting a goal, crafting a strategy, developing a campaign, and investing in some social media best practices, you can reap some serious benefits -- during the holiday season and beyond.
That’s the magic of social media that transcends season. When executed correctly, it becomes not only about sales but about real people, engagement, trust and respect. And people like doing business with friends they trust.
Shelly Kramer is a marketing strategist, brand-builder and digital-communications expert at V3 Integrated Marketing in Kansas City, Missouri.
Image credit: Irish Typepad