In social media marketing, Brooks Brothers is like an aloof bon vivant wearing a cool seersucker sports jacket on a humid summer day. The 194-year-old brand isn't frantically chasing friends and followers on social networks.
Brooks Brothers is playing it cool. Instead, it's investing in tools and testing to improve the online shopping experience for customers and prospects - and increase sales.
Consider a recent test involving one product category page: men's shirts. The retailer, which uses Bazaarvoice Ratings & Reviews software, decided to sort items on the product page based on customer reviews. Items with five stars - the highest rating - appeared on the top of the page. "The result was a 9 percent lift in conversions directly attributable to that change," said Ken Seiff, executive vice president, direct and omni-channel at Brooks Brothers during a presentation at the Adobe Digital Marketing Symposium in New York City.
Up until that point, Brooks Brothers used an algorithm that highlighted best selling products on its product category pages. "What is clear is that selling products is in large part driven by real estate. And as a result, providing more online real estate for the products with the highest customer satisfaction has had an incremental impact on sales," he said in a follow-up interview.
Social media purists insist that brands should not obsess over the number of followers, friends, and fans they have. Still, these numbers serve as one indictor of an organization's social media savvy. Brooks Brothers, for instance, has 91,500 "likes" on its Facebook page and 21,000 followers on Twitter. In contrast, Ralph Lauren has more than 5 million "likes" on its Facebook page and 60,900 followers for its @RugbyRL Twitter account.
When asked about the company's approach to social media marketing, Seiff said: "Our recent investments in social, mobile, and the iPad have really been focused on improving the quality of the content and presentation and not necessarily expanding the scale. We are now beginning to think about how to expand our efforts on these fronts."
Seiff, in an interview, also highlighted other initiatives underway. The retailer's top priority is the upcoming launch of a redesigned website that will feature personalized shopping experiences. The updated site will be built on Demandware, an e-commerce platform, he said.
Some changes will be noticeable to shoppers, such as a tool to zoom in on products. Behind the scenes, the retailer will also increase its use of testing using tools like Adobe's Test & Target. "There's a very significant focus on how the user wants to shop and how to present [products] to them," he said. As part of those tests, Brooks Brothers will use predictive analytics to determine what products to show to shoppers, based on the results of site tests.
One conversion optimization expert, who does not work with Brooks Brothers, said the retailer's approach to social media is unusual, but smart. "Social media is just one traffic source. It can be very targeted, but it is also usually something that works better at the top of the funnel to solidify your reputation, and help in the product-research stage," said Tim Ash, a ClickZ columnist, CEO of SiteTuners, and author of the book, "Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions." "Social media is the hot new thing right now, but conversion rate optimization is the gift that keeps on giving," he added.
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Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.