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CE Dealers Embrace Digital Marketing

NEW YORK – CE retailers are leveraging mobile and social marketing to stay current with customers and keep their stores as convenient and alluring as their online counterparts.

Indeed, a Facebook page and transactional website are no longer sufficient to retain, deepen and develop new customer relationships as shopping grows increasingly sophisticated and multichannel, executives said.

“Not long ago, B-to-B companies, manufacturers and retailers dabbled in social-media marketing as a sidelight to their ‘serious’ marketing endeavors,” noted Mary Lou Denny, executive VP of ad and public relations agency Walt Denny. “Today social-media efforts are among the best ways to forge customer relationships.”

Kevin Lyons, e-commerce senior VP at hhgregg, is tackling that imperative on multiple fronts. After improving the company’s e-commerce site with faster load times, shorter check-outs and an expanded assortment, he turned his attention to mobile, which is expected to outpace desktop-based shopping next year, he said. Among the fruits of his efforts are an upgraded mobile site; the chain’s first mobile app, set to launch this season; and a website optimized for tablets.

“Eighty-five percent of consumers have mobile devices, and we’re embracing it,” he told TWICE. “Now the consumer will interact with our brand in store.”

Lyons, who joined the chain a year ago following a stint at Sears and 15 years with Best Buy, is also upping the digital marketing quotient by “investing a lot more in Pinterest” as hhgregg broadens its home products assortment, and by increasing the output of promotional emails, which now include targeted product recommendations.

For TigerDirect’s marketing director Steven Leeds, videos are the ticket for reaching a mass audience with a modest investment. The retailer’s YouTube channel boasts 90,000 subscriptions and 100 million views, and last year the retailer partnered with comedy video producers Rhett & Link to create “Epic Rap Battle: Nerd vs. Geek,” which was shot in a TigerDirect store and went viral with nearly 9.4 million hits to date.

Leeds also employs photo-messaging app Snapchat to announce flash deals; has leveraged LinkedIn, which he described as “relatively inexpensive and quantifiable”; runs contests and sweepstakes on an actively managed Facebook page that has garnered 1.2 million followers; and was one of the first major e-tailers to accept Bitcoin, the digital currency, which recently passed the $1 million mark in purchases.

“We’re constantly testing and engaging new platforms,” Leeds told TWICE, although one of the company’s favorite venues is decidedly old school: its annual Tech Summit and Holiday Bash at Marlins Park stadium in Miami, which drew 100 exhibitors and 20,000 attendees last November, including top Vine and Instagram users who were invited to spread the word.

“It’s like a pre-CES for consumers,” Leeds said.

Among other retailer efforts:

• RadioShack, AT&T and Single Touch Systems are partnering to deliver targeted ads to consumers within close proximity of 30 of the chain’s new concept stores;

• the BrandSource buying group is similarly leveraging location-based mobile messaging by offering dealers preloaded iBeacons, which can broadcast vendor-specific promotions in store to smartphonetoting customers via Bluetooth; and

• the Nationwide Marketing Group is offering a turnkey digital marketing program that, among other elements, provides dealers with social-network postings and customer handouts to encourage store reviews.