Social media platforms offer retailers a chance for direct engagement with consumers as well as access to highly personalized data, all in real or near-real time. During the holiday season, with its intensified levels of competition and customer distraction, having the type of direct promotional connection with customers that social media can offer is more crucial than ever.
Yet for many retailers, how to effectively leverage social media for holiday promotions and marketing is something of a mystery. Here is a brief review of three vendors that can offer retailers assistance on a particular popular social media platform: 8th Bridge specializes in Facebook, Crimson Hexagon specializes in Twitter, and Piqora specializes in Pinterest (with the added bonus of Instagram and Tumblr).
8th Bridge: 8th Bridge provides the Facebook-oriented Social Graphite platform, which combines what the vendor terms social shopping engagement with social identity analytics. Social shopping engagement features allow retailers to integrate customer feedback with the Facebook Custom Open Graph and also use it to trigger stories into the timelines of customers and the tickers and news feeds of their friends. In addition, customers can curate and share collections of products from a retailer’s site on their Facebook pages, receive special social incentives and rewards, and provide social ratings of products.
These activities lead to social identity analytics, which provides three core capabilities of snapshots, crowds and campaigns. Snapshots are quick social profiles of individual customers, including Facebook profile photo; interests; product tastes; and key metrics about their influence, expertise and brand awareness. Crowds organize snapshots into targeted groups based on customizable metrics, and campaigns are then built around the crowds. 8th Bridge lets retailers offer a number of social engagement features to customers, with the retailers using the resulting data to build individual and group profiles for better targeting.
8th Bridge technology is designed to help retailers apply Facebook as a tool for developing critical social brand advocates whose voices are more likely to be heard over the holiday promotional din than the voices of marketers and advertisers. It’s also intended for developing highly segmented customer profiles that will help personalize branded holiday campaigns.
Crimson Hexagon: Crimson Hexagon offers the ForSight platform, based on a proprietary mathematical algorithm known as BrightView, to perform analysis of social media commentary, including keywords and sentiment to provide insight into how consumers feel about a particular retailer, product or brand. Retailers can apply the solution to analyze both a real-time stream of social media conversation and historical commentary, including the full Twitter firehose as well as postings on social media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube and blogs.
Retailers can perform sentiment analysis on up to 12 categories for a specific topic and define their own categories as well as use preset offerings. In addition, BrightView analyzes social conversations holistically, resulting in ForSight delivering contextually relevant data with a minimal amount of "human training" of the tool. Most significantly for retailers running holiday promotions, Crimson Hexagon offers real-time insight into what consumers are talking about and feeling. This allows quick adjustments to short-term holiday campaigns whose effectiveness cannot usually be determined until well after the holiday season is over.
Piqora: Piqora presents itself as a marketing suite for the visual Web, offering solutions that aid marketing efforts across the visually oriented Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr social networks. On Pinterest, Piqora enables retailers to customize and track pin-based contests and promotions, as well as track trending images, content and influencers, and perform competitive analysis.
Retailers can also leverage Pinterest technology to track their top photos and videos, as well as top photos and videos of competitors and top influencers and hashtags driving brand engagement, on Instagram. Similarly, Pinterest enables retailers to track trending images, brand reach and engagement, and competitor performance on the Tumblr microblogging site.
The holidays are an emotional time for many consumers, and smart retailers know the right visuals can have a huge impact on a shopper’s emotional state. Piqora lets retailers maximize the impact and return of visually based social campaigns and, much like Crimson Hexagon, make real-time adjustments based on tracking of social media trends as they happen.
Tiffany’s performance in China buoys Q2
NEW YORK — Tiffany & Co. saw sales growth and an improved operating margin for the second quarter ended July 31, fueled largely by its performance in China.
The company’s total sales in the Americas region were lackluster, increasing 2% to $444 million in the second quarter. Comparable-store sales remained flat for the quarter.
Meanwhile, the company reported total sales of $208 million for the quarter in the Asia-Pacific region — a surge of 20% compared to the year-ago quarter. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales also rose 20% and comparable store sales increased 13%, led by especially strong sales growth in Greater China.
In Japan, the negative translation effect from a substantially weaker yen caused total sales to decline 14% to $136 million for the quarter. However, on a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales increased 7% in the second quarter due to comparable store sales growth of 8% with strong growth in engagement and higher-end jewelry categories.
“Total sales growth met our objective due to solid performance in most regions, and with particular strength in our statement and fine jewelry product categories,” said Michael J. Kowalski, chairman and CEO. “We were pleased with the results of our efforts to improve gross margin which, combined with well-controlled expenses, yielded a solid increase in operating margin.”
Total sales in Europe rose 11% to $111 million for the quarter. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales rose 10% and comparable store sales rose 7%, due to sales growth in the United Kingdom and most of continental Europe.
Other sales increased 33% to $26 million for the quarter, primarily reflecting the conversion in July 2012 of five Tiffany & Co. stores in the United Arab Emirates from independently operated to company-operated.
As a result of better-than-expected earnings in the quarter, management increased its full year forecast to a range of $3.50-$3.60 per diluted share, compared with $3.43-$3.53 per diluted share in its previous outlook and $3.25 per diluted share in 2012.
Tiffany opened a store in Hong Kong, one in Verona, Italy and one in Villahermosa, Mexico, and closed one in Tokyo, Japan. The company operates 277 stores (116 in the Americas, 67 in Asia-Pacific, 54 in Japan, 35 in Europe and 5 in the U.A.E.).
Mobile at Forefront
Retailers can expect mobile devices to impact sales and play a greater role in buying decisions this holiday than last. Mobile as a percentage of site traffic on Black Friday shot up to 24% in 2012 from 14.3% the previous year. Sales over smartphones and devices on Black Friday rose to 16% in 2012, up from 9.8% in 2011.
Given mobile’s increasing momentum heading into the holiday, the pressure will be on for retailers to deliver a superior mobile experience. Indeed, retailers are investing in a multitude of site features and services, marketing programs, mobile initiatives and more to maximize holiday results, according to a survey by shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation.
The "Pre-Holiday Retailer Survey" conducted with Prosper Insights & Analytics, showed that mobile is weaving its way into all aspects of digital retail. More than half of retailers surveyed said that a mobile-optimized website is one of their most important investments this year.
The survey found that search and email are key ingredients for holiday marketing. Close to half (46%) of retailers are investing in Google Product Listing Ads for this holiday, while another third (38%) want to deliver personalized emails to their customers.
In other findings, free shipping will be alive and well again this holiday. In late 2012, Google found that nearly half of all shoppers will leave a site if it does not offer free shipping. Retailers aren’t taking any chances. More than one-third (38%) of retailers surveyed are analyzing and investing in free shipping offers that include a minimum purchase threshold.
With mobile a top-of-mind priority, here are some recommendations from IBM’s "Sixth Annual Online Retail Holiday Readinesss Report" on how retailers can maximize their mobile marketing efforts:
• Mobile email: Marketing emails can render attractively on one device, and messily on another. Use an email rendering tool to preview how mobile email displays across different devices, browsers and email clients.
• SMS text messaging: With high open and response rates, text messaging is a great way to get your message in front of on-the-go consumers. The range of potential communications is broad, from one-way broadcast messages to two-way interactions with coupons, text-to-win promotions and more. Securing opt-in is essential, and is best achieved by promotions through conventional email, website and display ad channels.
• Location-based targeting: This type of targeting enables brick-and-mortar retailers and others to reach consumers via SMS text messaging and other means with immediacy and geographic precision.
• Digital ads and recommendations: Mobile devices offer a way to retarget shoppers after they’ve left your site with either brand or product-specific ads that link to a mobile-optimized landing page. Analytics can tell retailers what sort of content most interests mobile users, allowing for customized communications.