Industry Transformers

2015 will be a very exciting year for CSG’s prestigious content writers and industry experts

This year, our editors have unanimously agreed on a select collection of topics. Industry Transformers will highlight companies & executives who have managed to stay relevant in this ever changing environment. They will outline how businesses and people must evolve, adapt, and transform in order to become top leaders in the marketplace.

Enjoy our fifth topic: Social Media Trends

Apparel & Department Store Retailers

Apparel and department store social media strategies are shifting from focusing on community growth to leveraging social as media to develop content and target consumers. For companies like Ross and T.J. Maxx which do not sell online, social media is used to introduce, advertise and promote company products along with being a platform for customers to share thoughts and opinions. Top retailers who focus more efforts online will gain market share with Millennials.

Forever 21 Inc., the nation’s top fast-fashion retailer, recently started allowing customers to buy goods from its Instagram page. After Forever 21 posts an Instagram image, the retailer includes the product URL to the image. From the customer side of things, all they have to do is like the product they want to buy and click on the Like2Buy link to buy it. Nordstrom and Target teamed up with the same visual marketing and analytics firm to launch the service last year.

Retailers like Forever 21 and Nordstrom have turned what was a purely a branding tool into a full-fledged e-commerce platform. Forever 21 promoted the launch of Instagram commerce through email marketing, social channels and its blog, and continues to do so on a regular basis. Instagram is now one of Forever 21’s top three-performing social channels contributing to the revenue generated on its e-commerce sites. The retailer currently has 6.8 million followers on Instagram and 11 million Facebook fans.

Discount, Dollar, & Hardware Retailers

Recently Frank Blake retired from his posts as Chairman and CEO at Home Depot. Mr. Blake took over operations at Home Depot in January 2007, after the forced departure of Robert Nardelli. Mr. Nardelli had been ousted after a stormy stockholders meeting, during which a loud mountain of near expletives made it clear that Nardelli had transformed the company a great distance from the roots planted by his predecessors who had created the then new-style, dominant industry retailer.

Most people think of social media as pertaining principally to the young, especially millennials. Mr. Blake’s retirement belies his age as fitting into the generation of baby boomers. Yet his strong twitter feed reinforced his vision and dedication to and appreciation of his workers.

Many of his tweets featured photos of groups of Home Depot personnel, smiling and celebrating individual and group awards and anniversaries, which Mr. Blake ably described. In some cases Mr. Blake incorporated a group of photos celebrating an event or achievement which he felt compelled to praise.

Some photos and comments honored long-term executives and employees for being honored by women’s organizations. One marks the donation of a kidney by one employee to another. One commemorated a 30th company anniversary and 50th birthday to a cherished front-office member. A series of tweets by Mr. Blake offers heartfelt thanks to a large group of personnel from faraway Guam.

When he took over at Home Depot Mr. Blake was determined to upgrade personnel to the standards upheld by the company’s founders. He succeeded by actually using the pitfalls of the recession to rebuild his dream. As a senior, he has succeeded in using social media to quietly reinforce his pride in this accomplishment while offing his gratitude to those on board.

Social media has become so pervasive that even regionals and independents have taken advantage to compete for the hearts and minds of customers at minimal costs. Western Canada regional Peavey Industries, operator of Peavey Mart, offers a running twitter feed midway down the homepage of its website. This is placed alongside a running commentary called What Customers Are Saying…, which allows customers to speak out without the space limitation imposed by twitter.

TV-based merchandiser QVC, displays its running feed on its TV screen alongside its on air talent presentations. Show hosts regularly requests tweets from viewers as the running tweets are on display.

Leading up to the worrisome holiday season of 2012, Toys R Us decided to embark on a social media campaign to hopefully engage families in its promotions for that all important holiday season. A callout was sent to parents, asking them to submit family photos to be featured in the company’s Big Family Album area on Facebook. The most-liked and commented-on images were then to be aired in the company’s Christmas commercial. This resulted in 90,000 new Likes being directly attributed to the successful campaign, after only a month. Ultimately, 51.9% of parents indicated that initiative produced a positive effect on their families. Toys R Us continued throughout the following year.

Drug Store & HBC Chains

When CVS decided it was time to end tobacco sales at its 7,600 store locations last year, one of the first places the announcement was made was on its Facebook page. Today, the post has nearly 350,000 ‘likes’ and has been shared over 150,000 times. More importantly, CVS took a proactive social media approach, responding directly to many FB users criticizing the company’s decision. CVS was both prepared for negative responses, and had a plan on how to respond – something every retailer should take note of.

The most popular feature of social media sites is arguably the ability to upload and share user photos. Walgreens took the trend a step forward by developing its Photo Printing Application. The app allows FB users to print popular sizes of prints, as well as collages, directly from their photo albums. Photos are then available for pickup at a local store. Walgreens also uses its social media presence to promote its successful reward card program and seasonal sales items.

Rite Aid has also used social media to enhance its users’ online experience. With millions of page visits every month, the company website integrates with Facebook and Twitter pages to share content amongst users. Rite Aid also uses its online presence to promote the value of its wellness+ program, which includes in-store enhancements and a loyalty card.


Grocery & C-Store Chains

First there was Facebook, then Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, Youtube, and Snapchat. It seems like every day a new social media outlet is being created to connect people to each other. In the past 5 to 10 years social media has exploded. It’s no longer a question of ‘do you have Facebook,’ it’s ‘can you send me a link to your profile.’ At first, social media sites were just for person to person interaction, but as time has gone on, businesses have figured out that they can enhance their reach through various social media accounts.

Last year, Consumer Reports performed a study and found that the top rated supermarket in the US was Wegmans Food Market. This January, Rival IQ compared the social media audience, activity, engagement and top content across six social networks of the top 14 supermarkets in the country to see if social media correlated with consumer preference. (The answer is yes and no). While you can read the full report here, these were the take away points.

  • Publix was ranked #1 for social audience and activity. Their main networks are Facebook and Twitter, but it also has Google+. Rival IQ points out that one of the reasons for such a high engagement is the placement of the social icons, which are easy to find on the company’s website. Publix had an impressive number of social engagements with 131,206 impressions (the second highest was Aldi with 77,967). How do they do it? They keep posts simple, talk about what customers love, use engaging images, repeat top content, and provide lots of links.
  • Aldi dominates Twitter. To test the engagement rate, Rival IQ determined the number of retweets, per thousand followers, of the company’s tweets during the time period. Aldi was number one with a score of 1.24, while Wegmans was 10th with 0.01. Like Publix, Aldi also keeps its posts simple with personalized hashtags. It was also pointed out that Monday and Tuesday were the biggest days for social media engagement from consumers.
  • While many consumers like to take pictures of food and post it to Instagram, the social media site isn’t big with supermarkets. Of the 14 supermarkets included in the study, 5 of them didn’t have an Instagram account (Aldi, DeMoulas, Fareway, H-E-B, and Publix).
  • It is important to note that of the 14 companies, Wegmans and Sprouts Farmers Market were the only two that had accounts on all six of the social media outlets; Trader Joe’s had the least with just 3 (Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram).
  • While social media plays a role in a supermarket’s success, it is more of an extension of the physical stores and helps build a community with brand loyalty.



Restaurant Chains

Today we live in a world where Facebook statuses are everything, Instagram filters are always on fleek, Twitter hashtags are almost unrecognizable, and Snapchat photos are usually embarrassing. In between the occasional selfie, consumers need to eat and restaurants know exactly how to feed their social media needs – literally and figuratively.

With almost 20% of the world’s population on Facebook, it will come as no surprise that restaurant operators have already invested much of their marketing efforts into the social media behemoth. According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), restaurants all over the world are “re-thinking coupons and deals by taking advantage of Facebook offers for in-restaurant redemption.” Facebook is an easy way to reach a wide range of consumers no matter the demographic, gender, race, or age. Pizza Hut, White Castle, and Dippin’ Dots have all been recognized by the NRA for “doing it right” on Facebook.

The next social media outlet restaurateurs are investing money and time into is Instagram. Every user on Instagram becomes an instant photographer, and restaurant operators know that the food exiting their kitchens will be photographed and must be Instagram-friendly. According to an Associated Press report, Chili’s Grill & Bar spent nearly $750,000 for a new “bun beautifying” egg-wash spread to make any hamburger photo break the internet. Moves like this encourage millennials and other photographers alike to share pictures of the food they eat and ultimately provide restaurants free and unlimited advertising.

Restaurant operators can even use Twitter to immediately connect with the nearly 236 million monthly users. To be successful on Twitter, restaurant operators must be able to spread awareness about their brand and keep it within the 140 character limit. Once a week, Corner Bakery Café holds a #CraveChat conversation on Twitter to discuss selected topics with their consumers. Last week, consumers discussed Healthy Food Choices with their most favorite café and shared tips and tricks on how to eat clean and stay healthy.

Last but definitely not least, one of the newest social media outlets is Snapchat, which is an app that allows consumers to send 10-second maximum pictures and videos to their family and friends. Even with a limited time frame for advertising, Sonic Corporation has dominated the Snapchat scene by unveiling some of the company’s most creative drink combinations to date by only using the Snapchat app.

As technology evolves and social media trends change, restaurant operators are constantly on the lookout for the next big thing. Not only are they focusing on how the food tastes coming out of the kitchen, but now restaurant companies are directing their efforts towards how the food looks in front of the camera.