Perhaps it’s the inspiration of Zappos and its pioneering use of Twitter. Maybe it’s the success of Best Buy, whose Twelpforce has turned employees into an online service and support staff. But retailers everywhere are jumping on the social train. And well they should.
Today shopping happens anywhere: offline, online, on the go. And shoppers can connect and share every step of the way. Mobile utilities make it possible to find a product in a store and quickly order it for less somewhere else. Services like Groupon deliver daily and or regional discounts providing the crowd responds. Platforms such as Placecast offer all of us a chance to opt-in to offers and messages from our favorite retailers entirely on our own terms. And multi-feature apps such as Springpad (note they’re a client and I serve on the board) will soon actually hunt down the best prices for products you’ve saved to your wish list.
In fact it’s only a matter of time before consumers can issue their own RFI for a given product type or even a specific brand.
So what are retailers doing besides the obvious presence on Twitter and Facebook? Lots of stuff. In the last couple of months I’ve come across the following. My guess is it’s just the beginning.
Uniqlo sets the bar
If non-stop experimentation and creativity is your criteria, check out Uniqlo. Their constant fashion innovation extends into social media. For example, UTweet takes all your Twitter content and gives it a cool new look. They’ve got something new every month or so and all of it is designed to engage with customers, connect them to each other and inspire them to pass it around. This is a brand that’s being social rather than doing social.
JC Penny hires haulers
Among the many phenomena brought to us by YouTube are haul videos. Shoppers sharing their most recent purchases. Don’t ask me why, but some of these young women have thousands of followers and hundreds of thousands of views. (Amazing what we are interested in.) JC Penny figured, “Why not have them haul home stuff from its stores?” Give some of the popular ones a couple of gift cards and turn those haulers into customers and advocates all in one fell swoop. No doubt we’ll see more retailers trying to leverage the influence of the individual.
Kohl’s crowdsources customer stories
Again, you may ask yourself why, but it appears we want to share everything and even pay attention to what others are sharing. Kohl’s figured this out and created a simple site where customers could hold up receipts, sharing what they bought and more importantly how much they saved. Granted $100 prizes helped generate participation, but shoppers showed up and shared as much because they wanted recognition and inclusion as they did the money. In a matter of weeks Kohl’s got thousands of customers to share their purchases and brag about their savings. Note: Kohl’s worked with This Moment, whose platform lets them create a unified brand experience across all the social networks, from YouTube to Facebook to Kohl’s own site.
Diesel introduces social dressing rooms
This is pretty cool. In Spain, Diesel created the Diesel Cam, essentially connecting mirrors right outside the dressing rooms directly to Facebook. When you try on an outfit you can log in, upload a photo of yourself in your new jeans, and solicit immediate feedback and “likes” from your friends. We all want the opinion of people we trust and who better to watch our backside than our friends? Social shopping, whether it’s via our iPhone and a quick TwitPic or full-blown installations like Diesel’s, is definitely here.
K-Mart post gamers’ online reviews in-store
This one couldn’t be simpler. K-Mart invites its video game customers to review games online and possibly have them appear in-store as POP right on the shelf where the game is sold. You get your review and your name front and center for other shoppers to see. Ups your gamer cred and makes you feel part of the franchise. We all know it’s easy to post comments online, but to have them displayed as a miniature billboard? Much cooler.
Retailers may still be addicted to FSI’s and the offline tactics they’ve always depended on, but if I were in the Sunday circular business, I’d be even more worried than I already am.
If you’ve seen other cool retailer uses of social media, please share. I’m taking up a collection. Thanks for reading.