Cover Story: The Top 50 Fastest-Growing Facebook Cross-Channel Retailers
Now that most Americans age 12 and over use Facebook, it comes as no surprise that retailers are flocking to the site as a way to connect with consumers online. And well they should: Studies show that consumers are using retailers' Facebook pages as online circulars. Kantar Media's web traffic analysis service Compete, for example, revealed earlier this year that one-quarter of consumers now visit a retailer or consumer product's official Facebook page at least once a month. More than half of consumers (56 percent) say they use retailers' Facebook pages to keep up to date on sales and promotions.
Facebook pages are also influencing consumers' purchasing decisions, according to Compete. In fact, more than 20 percent of consumers said that Facebook pages have been "influential" or "extremely influential" in making a purchasing decision, suggesting that posting sales, promotions and other calls to action on Facebook is a wise idea for retailers looking to drive incremental sales and boost consumer engagement on the social network.
Because of the importance Facebook marketing has to retailers today, we partnered with social media marketing agency Media Logic to create a list of the top 50 fastest-growing Facebook retailers based on year-over-year percentage growth of fans between August 2010 and August 2011. (To view the full list, click on the Related content link above.)
Media Logic has been tracking a select list of retailers' use of Facebook since July 2010. The accompanying list features brands across four retail sectors: specialty apparel; discount/department; specialty hardlines; and recreation (sports/hobby/crafts). Here are some trends Ronald Ladouceur, executive vice president of Media Logic, identified regarding retailers social media activities over the last year:
◆ Fan growth on Facebook is certainly the big story. By mid-August 2010, only 11 retailers could claim more than 1 million fans. By mid-August 2011, 34 retailers were above the 1 million mark.
◆ An interesting measure of a brand's engagement with its Facebook pages has emerged over the last couple of months as an insidious spam generator has spread through the space. Facebook accounts have either been hijacked or created in order to post false offers from Target, JetBlue, Apple and other brands.
The presence of spam posts and how long it takes for a brand to cleanse its wall when they appear is suggestive of that brand's level of attention. A significant number of the brands on this list were being victimized by these spam posts when checked in late August, including Victoria's Secret PINK, Aeropostale, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein.
◆ Seven of the 10 fastest-growing Facebook brands default users to a "Top Posts" wall where both brand and user-generated posts are visible. All of the top 10 brands actively cleanse their pages of spam. This suggests, in a roundabout way, that active engagement by a brand is now a driver of fan growth.
◆ Victoria's Secret and Victoria's Secret PINK have held the No. 1 and No. 2 spots for most Facebook fans since Media Logic started tracking retail brands. Quite clearly sex sells — or at least attracts eyeballs. But this success seems to be making the retailers lazy, as both brands' walls aren't being well tended and are regularly covered with spam.
◆ The master of all things social is H&M. The retailer has attracted 7.8 million Facebook fans and 366,000 Twitter followers, making it the only brand with more than 1 million Facebook fans and 300,000 Twitter followers. Only Urban Outfitters has more Twitter followers, but its yet to attract 1 million Facebook fans.
◆ Seven of the top 10 fastest-growing Facebook retailers encourage and manage fan participation, maintaining open walls (defaulting to "Top Posts") and making sure those walls are free of spam and off-topic discussions.
◆ There's been an interesting battle going on all year between Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's, with Cabela's gradually catching up to its rival, as Bass Pro Shops just missed making this list. Bass Pro Shops is more sales-oriented with its Facebook strategy, while Cabela's takes a more engagement-oriented approach. Bass Pro Shops defaults visitors to a brand wall that promotes sale items and sweepstakes (and pays little attention to fan posts as evidenced by the spam in its "Top Posts"), while Cabela's opens its wall to fans, encouraging them to post about their hunting and fishing experiences, and keeps its wall free of spam.
◆ CVS is gaining fast on rival Walgreens in terms of number of fans. While Walgreens has grown its fan base a respectable 288 percent year-over-year (and now has more than a million fans), CVS has grown a phenomenal 3,454 percent during the same period. CVS is a great example of the value of aggressive and attentive Facebook engagement. Promotions have included an innovative liker sweepstakes and funny videos for its ExtraBucks rewards program.
◆ Several brands have had a hard time gaining momentum in the social space. These include J.Jill, Jones New York, and JoS. A. Bank. Specialty retailers J.Jill and Jones New York seem to be faring particularly poorly relative to rival ANN INC. It should be very interesting to see, however, if social energy equals business viability.
◆ On the other end of the spectrum is Burlington Coat Factory, a brand that seemed all but dead a year ago. The retailer has made surprising headway on Facebook, growing from just over 1,000 fans to almost 50,000 fans in a year.
Burlington Coat Factory seems to have found a groove creating a sense of community among its price-stressed customers.