Loehmann's this month joins scores of consumer-facing businesses who are jumping on the Social Media bandwagon. Today, Inside Members received this loosely-branded email, urging them to text, join twitter, and connect via Facebook for all things Loehmann's.
Loehmann's appeal to customers via "Social Media" or Web2.0 tools suggests the company is smartly reconsidering how it interacts with its customers. Perhaps Loehmann's execs finally realize there's room for improvement and that selling at discount prices doesn't automatically mean market share. That's a good thing. It also suggests Loehmann's is thinking hard of how to evangelize itself as an accessible, with-the-times, retailer.
But while it is a noble effort Loehmann's Social Media strategy is far from being solid.
First, Loehmann's risks setting the wrong expectations. While customers do want to know about new promotions and discounts and will be tempted to follow the instructions and text "INSIDER" to the number provided, their initial excitement will soon be replaced with dismay when they begin to get the semi-weekly announcements Loehmann's now sends via mail and email.
Second, the campaign seems to mix two types of audiences. Customers with PDAs such as iPhone and Blackberry can easily open emails at the store and use the code from the email--they do not need text duplicate. But then there are the less mobile-savvy users, those who primarily use text messaging, and to these, facebook and twitter may not be the right channel. So it seems that Loehmann's is trying everything hoping to see what will stick. Definitely one strategy, but it may not be the one I'd choose for a company who's strapped for cash.
In essence, what Loehmann's is saying is:
(Internally, Loehmann's is saying "gotcha! Now we can spam you till end of time" oh, and "thanks for helping us cut the cost of marketing by 30% in the coming year.")
And what Ms Customer is likely to say in response is:
Fun aside, this is an extremely difficult time for retailers who thrive on consumers' discretionary income. Discount fashion retailers are no exception. For Loehmann's, this is not the first downturn having submitted for Chapter 11 in 1999. For Loehmann's to win this downturn, it must first do better at listening to its customers and build optimal experiences around its customers' needs before trying to patch the cracks with a Facebook fans page or a twitter account. Only then, when it is focused on the customer experience (and less on outbound marketing), will it be able to capitalize on the power of passionate, fashion-minded customers.