Inside This Issue - Opinion
Power of social media can help build sales
October 7th, 2013
Anyone who continues to have doubts about social media’s impact on what goes on at retail should consider the experience of Duane Reade.
The company, a division of Walgreens that operates some 250 drug stores in greater New York, recently celebrated its arrival at the 1 million follower mark on Twitter, the ubiquitous social media site where users exchange thoughts in tweets restricted to a maximum of 140 characters.
Duane Reade’s swift climb to that level was impressive indeed. A little over a year ago its follower count stood at just 10,000. An orchestrated effort that digital communications manager Calvin Peters calls parallel persuasion — a process that he says is driven by brand advocacy, brand voice, conversation relevance and public relations integration — resulted in an expansion rate of more than 6,700%. That makes the company one of the fastest-growing retailers on Twitter.
Skeptics might concede that’s all well and good: The drug chain no doubt derives some benefit from engaging directly with customers and raising its new media profile. Still, they would probably question how those interactions translate to the bottom line. Duane Reade’s track record shows that they can have a substantial effect there as well.
Part of the drug chain’s social media initiative involves promoted accounts, which target relevant consumers by their interests, geography and other factors. The program made more than 3 billion digital impressions during the year, according to a case study conducted by Twitter, helping Duane Reade drive sales in its brick-and-mortar stores. In one example of social media’s power, the retailer generated a 28% increase in sales of Duane Reade legwear through the #DRLegwear — “Show Us Some Leg” campaign on Twitter. The result is especially impressive since it occurred during a period when sales in the overall category declined 5%.
Adroit use of social media clearly has the capacity to make a difference for retailers in areas that transcend image building. Duane Reade and Walgreens have been quick to grasp the potential inherent in the emerging omnichannel world. Competitors that have hung back for one reason or another would do well to rethink their position or risk being left behind by changing consumer expectations.