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Nov 3, 2009
via Shop Talk

This holiday’s shiny new toy: social media

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Companies that cater to consumers are always chasing after the latest consumer technology trend (anyone remember Second Life?), and this holiday season that means following them into the world of social media.Companies ranging from Wal-Mart and Panda Express to J.C. Penney and Target are experimenting with Facebook, TwitterYouTube or Flickr. Some are tweeting special coupons or limited-time deals, while others are doling out fashion advice or providing play-by-plays from product launch parties on Facebook. M.A.C. said it is using its Facebook page to feature artists, color collections, and what is happening backstage at fashion shows. While figuring out if all this tweeting, posting and friending is increasing sales is difficult, companies said one thing is certain: Social media is giving them a direct, unfiltered link to consumers.For instance, when Target asked its Facebook fans what they thought of its mens clothing line, they got suggestions like: “MORE MLB, NFL, NBA merchandise…” and “Could use a better selection of mens jeans, and tall mens shirts (not just dress shirts) too.”Target is now using the responses to tweak its merchandise selection.When Panda Express wanted to celebrate its new SweetFire chicken breast, it allowed Facebook fans to print a coupon so they coud visit a restaurant on Sept. 25 and try it for free. Chief Marketing Officer Glenn Lunde said 25,000 coupons were redeemed and traffic in its restaurants rose that day. Larry Weintraub, the chief executive of marketing agency Fanscape, said that unlike traditional media, social media can give companies tangible results.”If I run a TV ad or I do a billboard … I don’t always know the direct effect,” he said. “If I do Facebook and there’s a coupon or a direct link to buy it, I actually see the results.”Coach said it is luring shoppers to its stores and its website by using Facebook, Twitter and establishing relationships with influential blogs. For this holiday, it is developing an iPhone gifting application. Users can type in who they are shopping for, what that person’s favorite color is, and their price range. The application will respond with a bundle of possible gift ideas.But Zain Raj of Euro RSCG Discovery said companies need to keep social media’s potential in perspective for this holiday. He pointed to Dell, which has said it raked in more than $3 million from Twitter followers who clicked through its posts to its Websites to make purchases. However, Raj said that is “not even a drop in the ocean” for a company that posted $12.3 billion of revenue in the first quarter of this year, alone.(Photo/Reuters)

Nov 3, 2009

Food the focus as Wal-Mart starts holiday giving

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wal-Mart Stores Inc is directing much of its U.S. holiday giving this month to providing food as a record number of Americans resort to food stamps and donations to feed their families.

The world’s largest retailer has increased its U.S. holiday donation by 28 percent this year, with part of the $32 million earmarked for hunger relief.

Nov 2, 2009

Wal-Mart announces second round of toy price cuts

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wal-Mart Stores Inc on Monday announced its second round of price cuts on toys as the world’s biggest retailer backs up its intention to be the “price leader” this holiday shopping season.

U.S. Walmart stores are cutting prices on 100 toys, like the Buzz Lightyear talking action figure and Star Wars light sabers, by roughly 20 percent to 30 percent.

Nov 1, 2009

Holiday shoppers’ search extends to social media

By Nicole Maestri SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 30 (Reuters) – This will be one very social Christmas.

From Facebook to Twitter to YouTube, retailers and food chains plan to use social media this holiday season to get their brands in front of consumers and possibly win a bigger piece of their limited shopping budgets.

Oct 29, 2009

Till death do us part: Walmart.com selling caskets

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Wal-Mart Stores Inc is now catering to its shoppers’ needs from cradle to grave.

The world’s largest retailer has introduced online sales of caskets, expanding a merchandise selection that spans engagement rings and baby gear to a new major milestone in its shoppers’ lives.

Oct 29, 2009

Amazon.com rolls out shortcut for paying online

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc on Wednesday announced the launch of “PayPhrase,” a shortcut for making purchases on the Web, as the online retailer prepares for a rush of holiday season shopping.

To use PayPhrase, consumers set up a unique phrase and a 4-digit PIN that links to their Amazon.com account where a shipping address and payment information is stored.

Oct 28, 2009

Costco to accept food stamps nationwide

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Costco Wholesale Corp <COST.O> will accept food stamps at its U.S. warehouse clubs nationwide, its chief financial officer said, expanding a test it reluctantly began at its New York clubs five months ago.

“Given the economic times and hardships out there, this is a valuable tool for some of our members,” Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

Oct 23, 2009

Wal-Mart shrinks U.S. supercenters, sees tepid sales

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The Wal-Mart supercenter is getting downsized.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc fueled its aggressive U.S. expansion this decade by opening supercenters that on average have more square footage than three American football fields. But at its analyst meeting on Thursday, Wal-Mart said it will rely on smaller, more efficient stores to drive future U.S. expansion and help it penetrate yet untapped urban markets.

While it shrinks the average size of its U.S. stores, its international operations are gaining in importance and will help fuel future sales. It forecast international square footage growth to outpace U.S. growth this fiscal year and next.

Oct 22, 2009

Wal-Mart keeps conservative U.S. store growth plan

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 22 (Reuters) – Wal-Mart Stores Inc
<WMT.N> said on Thursday it will keep its conservative approach
to U.S. expansion as it pours resources into renovating stores
or exploring higher-return investments abroad.

The world’s biggest retailer said its international square
footage growth will outpace U.S. growth this fiscal year and
the next. It will open smaller stores in the United States to
penetrate new markets.

    • About Nicole

      "Nicole Maestri is a retail correspondent for Reuters and covers some of the world's biggest retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Costco."
      Joined Reuters:
      2002
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