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January 5th, 2010Retailers eager to get personal

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by Richard Mullins

Tampa, FL – As shoppers recover from holiday spending, retailers have devious plans to entice us back into stores. They play on our love of social media, our cell phones and our suspicion that we’re undiscovered fashion designers.

Case in point: A new pair of running shoes is nice. But some companies have built elaborate online systems that let shoppers design their own shoes – down to the color of the soles, laces and stitching.

Retailer Wet Seal encourages teens to mix and match fashions on their cell phones, then compare the looks with nearby teens based on GPS data.

And when sending out the best discounts, Toys R Us, Wet Seal, Ann Taylor, Stein Mart and dozens of other shops give preference to their “friends” on Facebook.

Though not abandoning traditional ads or promotions, scores of retailers are finding new value in using social media to engage customers and foster within them a deeper sense of involvement with a brand – right down to a post on their Facebook page about a sale just for them.

If this starts to sound like a personal relationship, that’s not by accident.

“Retailers are building that relationship from just a transaction – walk in, buy a dress, walk out – into a personal experience,” said Lorin Drake, a market researcher with Schwartz Consulting Partners in Tampa. “Retailers want to build that relationship over time.”

The Flip Flop Shops chain uses social media as its primary method of promotion, said President Brian Curin, and often invites groups to special sales through Facebook.

Customers have uploaded more than 2,000 photos of their feet in action to the company’s Flickr gallery online.

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