Toys”R”Us: social selling and analytics shaking things up this Thanksgiving
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I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Steve Lazarus, digital manager overseeing social strategy for Toys”R”Us, and other brands in the portfolio. I've worked with Steve in the past and even though I've been struck by his focus and drive, it's his ability to cherry-pick projects just one step ahead of the zeitgeist that really stands out.
A few times during the conversation, Steve referred to social behavior and shifting patterns in social behavior, signaling the potential root of this prescience. A keen eye for data and trends.
So what's hot right now?
Selling off-domain using emerging channels like Facebook apps is one area with a visible glow. This year, the full print catalog (that shimmering brochure which always slips out of the Sunday newspaper) is rendered as a Facebook application.
As Steve explains, there's a lot to be said for keeping folks on the same platform on which they started their journey. There is less of a need to pull the shopper onto the Toys”R”Us site. The browsing experience can all take place on Facebook. The team also looked to keep the level of intrusion on the platform down: the app fits inside the central column of Facebook. Steve says they did experiment with bigger ads that took over more real estate, but they didn't test so well.
So what's in the app? The ability to focus on every product in the catalog. As you would expect from one of the largest retailers in the US, you have the option to click through and complete the purchase online. You also have the ability to share the item. Here are where things get interesting. Rather than just share the app itself (which might be marginally useful), you can broadcast your interest in a given product in the catalog. Whether that be the latest Spongebob backpack or that tiara Barbie has always wanted, you can sow the seed of desire in your social network.
The share button transforms the app from a merchandizing vehicle into a social recommendation engine. And as any self-respecting mall rat will tell you, the shopping behaviors of your peers tends to shape how you shop.
What's more, Steve is quick to point out they track all that they can feasibly measure. Looking beyond purchase trends, the team can analyze what causes most interest and buzz, even if it isn't necessarily the highest selling item. This petri dish of social buying behaviors can be used to inform the design of cross-promotions and bundled packages. Interestingly, in this era where we often think the end-goal of social analytics is engaging in conversations, here the social strategist may do little more than listen and modify the shopping experience based on what they hear. This is enough to complete the loop: you don't always have to talk back.
Other topics covered in this conversation include the growth of mobile commerce and the current lack of a unified, trusted mobile payment system. We also touched on how social strategy is twisting the organization of marketing within the enterprise, selling cross-channel and mommy/daddy blogging.
How did we fit all that in? Take a listen and find out.