How Deb Shops Used Social Media to Improve its Search Rankings … and Grow its Revenues
For multichannel retailer Deb Shops, a seller of junior and plus-sized apparel and accessories for women aged 13 to 25, combining the power of two of online retail's most profitable channels — social media and search — has brought increased brand awareness, more site traffic and ultimately increased sales.
At this month's Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago, Joe Kassa, Deb Shops’ chief marketing officer, along with David Larkins, vice president of marketing for online marketing and advertising firm NetPlus, discussed how retailers can create a social media agenda optimized for search engines.
5 Reasons Social Media Should be Search's BFF
Larkins began the presentation with a rundown of five reasons why social media and search work best when harnessed together. They include the following:
- Google likes social media;
- social media produces quality inbound links;
- social media is a proactive form of reputation management;
- social media increases brand awareness; and
- it increases consumers’ time spent on your website.
Encourage content creation from your customers and employees, said Larkins. To find your brand evangelists, offer consumers something in return — e.g., advance notice on sales, special offers, free stuff, exclusive access, etc. This also works for bloggers, Larkins pointed out. But it's the responsibility of retailers to provide consumers the context to put content out there the right way. For a general audience, keep those opportunities simple. For example, encourage videos, product reviews, photos with them and your product, recipes, etc.
The Deb Girl Model Search
With a primary demographic of teenage girls who spend more time texting and on Facebook than average consumers, Deb Shops realizes the importance of social media on its business. When brands say that they must communicate wherever their customers are, for Deb Shops that means a heavy presence on social media sites.
One of Deb Shops most recent social media campaigns occurred eight months ago. A model search was held among its customers, with the winner being featured in a Deb Shops’ photo shoot and on its website. While not the first apparel retailer to run a model search, Deb Shops’ campaign was different — it was completely done online.
Deb Shops had five goals in mind for the campaign, said Kassa, which included the following:
- forge a deeper connection with its target audience;
- expand awareness of the Deb Shops’ brand and its products;
- drive user-generated content creation;
- increase its email database; and
- drive sales online and in stores.
With these goals in mind, Deb Shops targeted the following four areas to market the campaign:
- Facebook: Contestants created “vote for me” pages, said Kassa, exponentially growing the number of Facebook fans the brand had. They also created alliance pages, where contestants pledged to vote for each other.
- YouTube: The video site was used by contestants as forum to explain why they should be selected as the winner. The videos included the Deb Shops’ URL in them, serving as a driver of traffic to its e-commerce site, and ultimately helping its organic search rankings.
- Blogs: Deb Shops gave instructions to contestants on what they wanted to be included in the contest's blogs, but then contestants were free to personalize their blogs with customized content.
- Directory submissions: Done with every Deb Shops’ marketing campaign, directory submissions create of number of SEO-valuable backlinks for the retailer, Kassa said.
Think about your audience and how you can help them create content that will help your organic search results improve, Kassa advised.
Traffic, Sales Gains
Sales is the ultimate metric to track when analyzing the overall effectiveness of a social media campaign, said Kassa. To that end, Deb Shops was very pleased with how its model search campaign affected its search rankings and bottom line. Here are some statistics from the campaign that Kassa gave to end his presentation:
- the company saw record sales in September of last year during the height of the campaign;
- traffic to Deb Shops’ e-commerce site increased 10 percent;
- the number of Deb Shops’ Facebook fans grew by 500 percent;
- 75,000 names were added to its email database; and
- at the opening of the contest voting on the company's website, the Deb Shops was tracking 12,000 site visitors per minute.