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Express unfurls mobile-optimized gift guides via stylish Instagram posts

Apparel retailer Express is relying on artfully curated Instagram posts to inspire last-minute holiday shoppers to click the link in its account bio and peruse mobile-optimized gift guides for men and women.

As crunch time for holiday shopping arrives in full force, consumers still in need of presents for loved ones are frequently browsing social media for seeds of gifting inspiration. Express is driving its Instagram followers to its mobile site by asking users to click the link in its bio and shop the curated top products featured in its holiday gift guides, suggesting that all major retailers should be engaging in the same tactic to bolster last-minute sales.

“Consumers appreciate gift suggestions during the holidays, especially if they are not aware of the hottest new products or designs,” said David Naumann, director of marketing at Boston Retail Partners. “Posting curated gift ideas on Instagram is great way to spark ideas and inspire immediate purchases on the Express mobile Web site and/or app.”

Tinseling up Instagram
As plenty of retailers flock to social media to post top-selling products of the season in a bid to entice followers to shop online or in-store, Express is adding a veritable call-to-action to its own social strategy. The retailer has been uploading eye-catching images of seasonal accessories and outfits, some handpicked by social influencers and bloggers, with instructions on how to purchase the featured items.

Its Instagram followers have been privy to posts starring the brand’s newest models. Each holiday-themed upload also includes the #GiveStyle hashtag, which showcases Express’s encouragement for shoppers to gift their friends and family with trendy pieces this season.

Several days ago, blogger Marcel Floruss selected his top items to bring on a weekend getaway, which included a white scarf and black leather jacket. Express posted these curated products with a call-to-action asking users to tap the link in its Instagram bio if they wanted to purchase Mr. Floruss’s suggested pieces.

The brand also recently showcased a slew of popular accessories that consumers could gift to their best friends. The statement necklaces and earrings were all displayed in an artistic manner, with an Express gift card visible in a red box.

The picture caption prompted followers to click the shoppable link to purchase shiny presents for their entire “squad,” a popular word referring to one’s friend group.

Once consumers have clicked on the link in Express’s Instagram bio, they will be brought to the retailer’s Like2Buy page, where they should tap on the most recent post. That action will pull up a section of the Express mobile site.

Shoppers will then be able to peruse gift guides for men and women. Express has chosen a plethora of products, ranging from apparel pieces to jewelry to winter accessories, that customers can pick out for their friends and family.

Individuals can add the desired products to their mobile shopping cart, and check out once their browsing session has concluded.

The Instagram posts may also inspire followers to purchase a featured item from Express, even if they were previously not planning to shop with the retailer.

“We’ve done a bunch of research evaluating retailers’ curation and personalization work here at RSR in the last few years, and the net of the findings is that few outside of luxury goods have done much to make the shopping experience feel special,” said Steve Rowen, managing partner at Retail Systems Research. “This is a simple way to do two very important things: one, get the shopper more involved in the culture of the brand and two, provide some meaning to social channels.

“It’s a lot more valuable than a like or a follow – and if Express can glean usable information about product preferences of socially-enabled shoppers (a core component of its target audience), it may provide insight into future merchandising efforts, as well.”

Express is not the only major apparel marketer that has recently leveraged social media as a prime shopping tool.

Victoria’s Secret did not let its large Instagram following go to waste during the airing of the brand’s popular fashion show on December 8, with users able to shop the featured runway items in real time (see story).

Pushing mobile’s boundaries
Express has been ramping up its mobile strategy with increased fervor lately, as it aims to complete with a slew of other millennial-friendly retailers for consumers’ attention. Its Instagram followers were the first to see looks from the brand’s new luxury line, Express Edition.

Express Edition, available online and in select bricks-and-mortar locations, features wardrobe staple pieces made from more luxurious fabrics, clocking in at higher price tags than Express’s usual merchandise. Model and actress Suki Waterhouse is one of the faces of Express Edition, and has appeared in shoppable mobile videos showcasing some of the outfits.

This past September, Express transformed its mobile application into a shopping companion that merges social media, loyalty, payments and geotargeting into a singular location as it geared up to maximize sales during the holiday season (see story).

The brand also continued its efforts to fashion a best-in-class mobile shopping app with a recent update that unveiled fully native product pages (see story).

Other retailers are likely to follow in Express’s footsteps when it comes to dispersing holiday ideas on mobile.

“Shoppers consume information differently and are active in a variety of social media platforms; therefore, it is imperative that retailers spread their marketing efforts across multiple mediums,” Boston Retail Partners’ Mr. Naumann said. “Instagram is extremely popular among women under the age of 30, which is the prime demographic of Express shoppers.

“While Instagram won’t be the biggest driver of online sales for Express, it will be an integral part of its total holiday marketing campaign. The sharing culture of social media is perfect for extending the reach of campaigns and for consumers to let their friends and family know what they ‘like’ which makes gift buying easier.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York