jeudi 30 avril 2009

Jewelers make a date with social networking

New York--In an economy where marketing dollars are hard to come by, viral marketing--the kind that can spread a message far and wide by word of mouth--might be part of the cure for ailing retail jewelers.

Social-networking Web sites such as Facebook, for which membership is free, can help jewelers expose their business to thousands of potential customers, particularly young engagement ring shoppers, without spending a dime.

The "2008 Channel Preference Survey" from Indianapolis-based e-mail marketing software company ExactTarget shows that of those U.S. Internet users surveyed within the 18- to 24-year-old age range, 75 percent use social-networking Web sites.

That number drops to 57 percent in the 25- to 34-year-old age range, 38 percent for the 35- to 44-year-old group, 29 percent for the 45- to 54-year-old demographic and 13 percent for Internet users ages 55 to 64.

If a store demographic is on the younger end of the spectrum--or if a retailer is looking to diversify its customer base--experts recommend taking the plunge into social networking, but say retailers need to make sure they have the staff to keep up with the 24/7 nature of doing anything Internet-related.

Au-Co Mai, founder of online jewelry store and vice president of technology on the Women's Jewelry Association board, recommends Facebook as a venue for retailers seeking out a more retail-minded demographic.

Founded in 2004, Facebook says it now has more than 140 million active users (defined as those who have returned to the site in the last 30 days), with its fastest growing user demographic being those who are 25 and older.

"To me, this [is] a huge opportunity to develop relationships with a large pool of people who are educated and who like to engage not only with friends but also for things they feel connected to," Mai says. "This includes causes, charities, political groups and brands."

Mai says retailers can create "fan pages" for their stores, allowing friends and contacts to sign on as "fans" of their brand.

Tiffany and Co. recently created its own fan page on Facebook, after a number of the brand's devotees had taken it upon themselves to create unofficial Tiffany fan pages where they discussed items they owned or that they wanted to own.

The company's own official page featured a display of the work of Tiffany designer Paloma Picasso, which fans had a chance to weigh in on.

"We like the new range from Tiffany and Co.," one user wrote.

The Tiffany Facebook entry also includes a link to a page explaining Tiffany's environmentally friendly philosophies, another link to a page featuring celebrities and a discussion board on Tiffany-related topics, such as fans' first-ever or favorite piece.

The company also had fans from countries including Australia and Bulgaria joining a discussion in which they detailed their first-ever gift or purchase from Tiffany.

Members only

Instead of creating a fan page, retailers can simply become members of a social-networking site, as did New York's Firenze Jewels, which recently stepped into the MySpace and Facebook spheres, hoping to drum up new business, says Christian Montalvo, the store's Internet marketing manager.

While uncertain of how successful that maneuver will be initially, Montalvo is sure that social networking is the wave of the future.

"Today's younger consumers [about 35 years of age and under] demand to communicate and interact with companies in ways we've never seen before," Montalvo said in a message to National Jeweler sent via Facebook. "These people are buying engagement rings, wedding bands and gifts for their significant other. This informed generation is more comfortable with making larger purchases without ever stepping foot in a physical store. A business' reputation and 'social' presence on Web sites like these helps these buyers be more comfortable with making that decision."

Whether it's a fan club or just a regular page, social-networking sites allow jewelers to communicate about upcoming in-store events, post pictures from past events and provide helpful product information.

Facebook, for example, features a "wall" and/or a discussion board, two places on the home page where users can post comments about a store's products or their own shopping experience--remarks that can be read by other online "friends" of the store.

Minding the virtual store

When developing their social-networking pages, however, retailers should remember that they are not just putting up an online advertisement but opening up a dialogue with consumers--and one that should be monitored, says Susan Barns, a professor of communication and associate director of the Lab for Social Computing at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y.

Retailers need to be prepared to offer their social-networking friends benefits such as tips on buying diamonds, or information about the store's custom engagement ring program.

"It's not just in-your-face-marketing," Barnes says. "That's what these online things are all about, developing relationships, not just advertising products."

Retailers should also be on guard for negative remarks that might be posted and post responses to them quickly, she says.

"You need people to check and see what's being said about you," Barnes says. "It is more work."

Steven Singer, who owns Steven Singer Jewelers in Philadelphia, assigned two of his female staffers, both in their early 20s, to the task of creating social-networking pages for the store on Facebook and MySpace, hoping the store's accessibility on the sites would appeal to his clientele.

The majority of customers at his bridal-focused store tend to be in their 30s. One drawback of being part of the social-networking world, Singer acknowledges, is that the sites require monitoring, and he currently doesn't have the staff to do so more than every few weeks.

To address the issue, Singer says he just expanded his staff to include a more active Internet department that will be charged with monitoring the store's social-networking activity, among other duties.

"It's just another vehicle, another way to reach out," Singer says. "People like it."

Aucun commentaire:

Enregistrer un commentaire