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Loft unzips in-store traffic with coupon tease on Instagram

Ann Inc.’s Loft tapped Instagram to post a summery image enticing its New York-based fans to flock to their nearest store to receive a $10-off coupon, proving that social media is effective for dispersing news of limited-time offers.

Loft posted a photo of a pink cake pop on its Instagram account yesterday, alerting followers in New York City of a special sweet treat available in-store for anyone arriving prior to three p.m. Consumers were excited to discover that the treat in question was actually a $10 off coupon to use on a purchase, a move that suggests following favorite brands on social media can pay off for some users.

“This is probably an offer to drive traffic into the store at an off-peak time period, so short term, a time-sensitive incentive is a good idea,” said Thad Peterson, senior analyst at Aite Group, Atlanta. “Given consumer behavior with social media, a time-based offer is probably most relevant in this channel, since consumers generally check their feeds several times a day (or in some cases several times an hour).”

Flash sale method
Loft gave its fans several hours to visit a nearby bricks-and-mortar location after spotting the Instagram post, capitalizing on the constant connectivity that social media networks offer. Consumers frequently check their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds out of habit, making them the ideal channel to tap when distributing time-sensitive information about offers or sales.

The millennial-friendly brand posted an image of a pink cake pop superimposed over a busy street background. The caption called out to New York City residents and encouraged them to “pop in” to their local Loft store by three p.m. to receive a sweet treat.

Followers left excited comments on the posts, with some lamenting their current locations and others affirming that the treat was in fact a cake pop accompanied by a $10 off coupon.

This was an optimal way of kicking off the end of the summer with a delicious dessert while also ensuring that consumers felt an urgency to visit a Loft store. Shoppers could then eat their cake pop while perusing the newest styles and purchasing items with their exclusive discount.

“Bridging the gap between online retail sales and in-store foot traffic is extremely important,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston. “It is one thing to create social media buzz, but this is been extremely hard to quantify.

“Offers like this allow the home office to support local stores and have redemption be counted at the point-of-sale via coupon redemption,” he said. “This is called ‘mobile proof of presence’ since it is empirically proven that the social media buzz lead to a set number of in-store redemptions by those who opened them.

“In this way, these campaigns can be quantified in terms of value in a way that is extremely important for retailers to start measuring.”

Treating loyal fans
Many consumers will become more likely to spend in-store if they feel they are being pampered, a strategy which generally results in a sunny outlook and a willingness to open wallets a bit wider. Loft’s call-to-action on Instagram was able to boost sales during off-peak traffic times, but also managed to foster long-lasting relationships with fans by rewarding them with a sweet treat and a coupon.

Loft also could have benefited from the limited-time promotion by requiring that all consumers who walked in-store for a cake pop and coupon showed a sales associate their smartphone to prove that they are following the brand on Instagram.

This past April, the retailer attempted to ramp up its followers and raise awareness of its spring clothing lines by rolling out a photo contest on Instagram over the course of seven days, proving that establishing an emotional connection with consumers on social media is still key for clothing retailers (see story).

“The objective is to sell more stuff during low volume day parts so limiting distribution to followers would be counter-intuitive,” Aite Group’s Mr. Peterson said. “A better solution would be to provide an additional incentive to those who come to the store to get them to follow Loft.

“That way you get the incremental sales and an opportunity to acquire new followers.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York