Express Goes Social, But Not for the ROI
Everybody in the retailing industry presumably knows by now that social media is a big deal, and so does the CMO of Express, Lisa Gavales, but she doesn’t expect it to result in ROI.
Express is a specialty apparel and accessories retailer that targets 20-to-30 year olds, with over 600 stores in North America. Speaking at the eTail East Conference in Boston last week, Ms. Gavales said that their customers are social, mobile and informed, but they are also price sensitive and suffer from data overload. In a sense, she said, shopping used to be "easier" — or at least more linear.
Ms. Gavales believes one of the keys is leading with your brand and not trying to measure your social success using ROI. She warns that a multi-channel marketing approach can lead to inconsistency that can tarnish your brand. She also stresses engaging in "true" communication — two-way communication — with customers. Responding to individual inquiries on Facebook and Twitter, for example, essentially lays the groundwork for offering customers products and specials (i.e., one-way communication). Express representatives often respond to customer posts on Facebook within minutes.
Social media helps retailers communicate with customers daily or even more frequently, rather than using monthly mailers or 3x per week emails. And yet, ROI metrics for social interaction remain elusive. Ms. Gavales says trying to measure the ROI on social media is like trying to measure the ROI on store air conditioning — you can’t, but it’s something you can’t do without.
Regarding mobile, Express is seeing conversion currently at only one-third of what they get from their website. But Ms. Gavales says that isn’t the point. The customer has their mobile device with them all the time, and the adoption of the mobile wallet may completely change the way we think about transactions. Plus, mobile can help customers "assist themselves" when in-store help isn’t there or isn’t desired.
Retailers need to organize around their brand(s) and execute by channel, said Ms. Gavales. The more channels drive the org chart, the harder it is to be consistent across channels, she believes. That’s why Express has one marketing department and one creative department covering all channels. This strategy is designed to assure the customer will get clear messaging everywhere and consistent pricing across communication and buying channels.
Note: As of August 1, 2012, Express had 2.4 million "likes" on Facebook, which puts it on par with Guess?, more than double TJ Maxx, and about triple that of Ann Taylor. Express also had 46,000 followers on Twitter, which is double the following of The Body Shop and over 10x Chico’s.
- About Express
- Express CMO Lisa Gavales shares how to turn "likes" in to sales – NRF
- Video: EXPRESS’ CMO Lisa Gavales Talks Social Media – ANA
- Lisa Gavales Twitter Feed
Should retailers and brands view social media as a marketing tool, or as an opportunity to drive ROI? Does pricing and messaging need to stay consistent across all channels?