What I’ve Been Up To…

Hi guys! Wow. This has definitely been my longest break from the blog. In my defense, however, I’ve been working incredibly hard on my final assignment for my journalism class.

This assignment was undoubtedly the most stressful and challenging story I’ve ever had to write. However, I also learned so many valuable lessons from the work I put in. From how to research numbers for a story, to finding and securing sources, to actually writing a story within a word limit without omitting any important information, this assignment definitely helped me to improve as a journalist.

My enterprise story focused on how local fashion retailers use social media to market their brands and merchandise. I was able to choose the focus for this assignment, and I think the reason I enjoyed writing it so much was because fashion marketing is exactly what I want to do and the information I found was fascinating.

So, this is what I was working on for most of February and March. This is also geared toward a local audience, but the data and trends are all national. Enjoy!

When Kristi Pawlowicz began using social media to market new products and sale events for her retail store early last year, she had no idea her boutique would gain more than 4,300 social media followers in less than one year.

Pawlowicz’s Davis Street boutique, 522 Envy, began as a storefront in downtown Evanston in September 2013. However, since starting social media profiles through Instagram Inc., Facebook Inc. and Pinterest Inc. that feature stylized photo shoots and sponsored advertisements, traffic to the online store now rivals that to the boutique, Pawlowicz said. Although she has no way to track specific numbers of people coming to the store or shopping online, she does see a correlation between new social media posts and spikes in traffic, she said.

Pawlowicz is one of a growing number of retailers using social commerce strategies to market their products, according to Retail TouchPoints’ April 2014 “Strides in Social Commerce Survey Report.” Retail Touchpoints is an online publishing network that shares industry insights for retail executives, according to its website. In its third year, the social commerce survey is designed to help retailers gauge progress against industry peers as well as implement new strategies, according to the document.

While two-thirds of retailers reported having a social commerce strategy in place in 2014, 59 percent of those same retailers attributed less than 5 percent of sales to social commerce that same year, according to the Retail TouchPoints report. But despite an apparently small sales return, retailers are using social media more because they recognize it as a two-way channel of communication, said Mary Ann McGrath, a professor of marketing at Loyola University Chicago.

retailers_graphSource: Retail TouchPoint, “Strides in Social Commerce Survey Report,” April 2014

In 2014, two-thirds of retailers had a social commerce strategy in place, up from just under half in 2012, according to the report. Additionally, 84 percent of retailers used social media as a vehicle to market their social commerce in 2014, according to the survey.

“Companies are using one, two, three different social media platforms because they can communicate directly with their customers,” McGrath said. “They don’t use these platforms for sales. They use them to build relationships with consumers.”

Gigi Bottega, a boutique with locations in Evanston and Bloomington, Illinois, uses social media to appeal directly to the niche demographic of adult customers, said Jennifer Vericella Prado, manager at Gigi Bottega in Bloomington. While the boutique has used Instagram and Facebook to post fashionable pictures of items in the store for the past five years, the brand has focused more recently on sponsoring Facebook posts, Prado said. Sponsored posts are advertisements that can be targeted to specific ages and locations of users, and Gigi Bottega has concentrated its efforts on adults outside of the stores’ usual millennial demographic, she said.

The store often sees the biggest response both online and in-store to sponsored posts, said Tanya Gottlieb, manager at Gigi Bottega in Evanston. A sponsored post is chosen based on how many likes and comments it receives throughout the month, she said. That post is then promoted to the brand’s nearly 5,000 Facebook followers as well as the chosen advertising demographic, she said. While the store has no way to track numbers of people coming into the store, they do see a correlation between traffic and sponsored social media posts, she said.

“When we sponsor a post and target it toward adult women, we see more online interaction with new customers and a greater number of new customers coming into the store asking about merchandise,” Gottlieb said.

Pew Research Center’s report on social media usage of adults also offers evidence that appealing to the specific demographic of adult social media users makes sense despite a small sales return. In 2005, just 7 percent of all American adults used social media sites, according to Pew Research Center’s October 2015 report on social media usage from 2005 – 2015. By last year, almost two-thirds of all adults were using some form of social media, according to the report.

all_adults_graph*No information was available for 2007
Source: Pew Research Center, “Social Media Usage: 2005-2015,” October 8, 2015

Allison Smythe, 45, has followed retailers such as Nordstrom Inc. and Evereve Inc. since she began using social media about 10 years ago, she said. Smythe often goes to retail locations to shop after seeing new merchandise posted on the brand’s Instagram or Facebook page, she said. Without social media, it is often hard to keep up with what stores have in stock without trekking to the location, she said.

Retailers use social media not only as a channel of communication but also because they stand out from their peers if they do not have a social media presence, said Sara Gramata, a professor of marketing at Loyola University Chicago. Consumers like to do research before they go shopping and retailers utilize social media for this very reason, Gramata said. Social media legitimizes companies in the eyes of consumers and provides familiarity with the brand and new merchandise that cannot be obtained through other channels, she said.

“Without a social media presence, retail locations are left behind and people are less likely to believe they’re a legitimate company or organization,” Gramata said. “Consumers will be very wary if a brand or store is not online.”


I hope you found all of this as interesting as I did. I promise I’ll be much more on top of keeping up with the blog now that my life is slightly less hectic!



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