Going Digital

Speakers at the recent Internet Retailer Conference & Exposition in Chicago discussed how the retail industry is using a number of digital technologies to assist performance in areas such as CRM, marketing, driving customer traffic and converting sales. Following are a few brief highlights:

Liberty Jane Clothing, an online specialty retailer of clothing and accessories for American Girl dolls, uses the Pinterest social platform to give its customers an inside view of the company and create a more personalized relationship with them.

"You can create an authority profile and become a visual Sherpa for your niche," said Jason Miles, co-founder and marketer of Liberty Jane. "You can give a visual insider's view of the company. It's a nice way to get close to a customer or run a contest."

Miles recommended that retailers use third-party Pinterest analytical solutions to track current hot topics on Pinterest and see what type of traffic and participation the platform is driving to their e-commerce site. He also said retailers should take advantage of the new "Rich Pin" functionality that allows pins to contain more metadata. But he said social media activities should not occur in a vacuum, using Facebook as an example.

"If you spend money developing Facebook fans and don't move them through other platforms, you're in trouble when Facebook goes out of vogue," said Miles.

Brooks Brothers is connecting data to the customer experience in order to replicate the highly personalized shopping environment of its stores on its e-commerce site.

"We are connectors. Our job is to connect data to the customer experience with a software package," said Cindy L. Lincks, director of analytics for Brooks Brothers.

For Brooks Brothers, this package includes the Adobe Target, Analytics and Scene 7 solutions.

Aided by Adobe technology, Lincks said Brooks Brothers uses CRM data to define customer groups and map out customer touchpoints. The company then automates cross-departmental reporting and frequently adds Web metrics to better support its business intelligence software.

"It's not just what appeals to the masses," said Lincks. "It's meeting individual customer needs as they move through the site."

PetFlow, a pure online player, found that its initial efforts to expand its marketing activities to Facebook didn't work out so well.

"Google is not like Facebook — the consumer is searching with purchase intent," said PetFlow co-founder Alex Zhardanovsky. "Facebook users aren't sitting there with a credit card on their desk."

After initial efforts to develop Facebook fans and convert them to customers wound up costing $300 to $400 per customer, PetFlow started targeting its core customers, who were higher-income female animal lovers age 40 and older, by targeting consumers who had "liked" other retailers such as Amazon.com, Saks and Neiman Marcus. Within two months, PetFlow jumped from 10,000 to 200,000 Facebook fans.

To convert those fans into customers and evangelists, PetFlow began running funny ads with cute animal photos that customers voluntarily reposted, liked, commented upon and shared, vastly extending the reach of the ads at no extra cost to PetFlow.

"Facebook advertising lives on," said Zhardanovsky. "We're still generating sales from ads we posted months ago."

"If you spend money developing Facebook fans and don't move them through other platforms, you're in trouble when Facebook goes out of vogue."

— Jason Miles, co-founder, Liberty Jane Clothing