Lilly Pulitzer Pairs Social Media with Ecommerce

Social Media Marketing Senior Manager Eleni Tavantzis discusses the clothing brand's strategy for driving engagement and increasing sales with shoppable images and user analytics.

Social media is quickly evolving into an ecommerce tool as brands use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and others to drive brand awareness and sales. Lilly Pulitzer, the clothing firm known for its resort-inspired outfits, is one such company that is taking its social media campaigns to a new level. For example, the clothier teamed up with marketing platform Curalate to make its Instagram images "shoppable."

Lilly Pulitzer used this technology to sell a book of paintings on its social media channels on Thanksgiving. While the company didn't release sales figures, it reported a 56 percent growth in its Pinterest following and its Instagram following grew by 170 percent. 1to1 Media spoke with Social Media Marketing Senior Manager Eleni Tavantzis about Lilly Pulitzer's strategy for further engaging customers across social media.

1to1 Media: How do you make the leap to using social media as a sales tool?

Eleni Tavantzis:
It's about staying authentic. Everyone knows when they're being sold to and if it's unpleasant, you've lost that customer. As a brand, we want more people to enjoy what we're doing. If someone wants to shop, the job of social is not to get in the way of that. Give them the tools, the links, but not in a pushy way. Rather, it should be more of a service.

A couple times out of the year we'll offer special gifts to entice consumers to hit different spend levels. We first tested the 5x5 book [a hardcover book of prints] to celebrate the anniversary of our stores and we saw a lot of demand. That led to more books and for the holidays, we gave our Instagram followers the first shot at a new book on Thanksgiving. We used Curalate to create links from our Instagram photos to a landing page where they can purchase the book. Giving our fans a user-friendly shopping experience was a huge success.

How is your use of social media data driven?

For example, with Pinterest, we schedule our pins and then we'll use Curalate to see what product images are getting repinned the most. That determines what we'll promote on our other social networks. Is this image Instagram worthy? And we also share those results with our email team when they're thinking about which images to feature. Also, on Mondays, we're always looking to see what happened over the weekend and the week before. We use analytics to tell us what were the top 10 most pinned images, the top 10 pins based on revenue, etc. That all goes on a distribution list that's sent to design and merchandising where they're gleaning their own insights.

What do you think of Pinterest's value as a marketing and sales tool?

ET: I think Pinterest will be a gold mine. There's still so much more for us to do with it. From a user's perspective, I'm seeing a renaissance in activity on Pinterest. It had died down for a bit, but there seems to be a renewed interest in Pinterest.

What about Instagram? Are you seeing a lot of traction there?

Instagram is our number one platform for user engagement. We love it because it gives us a lot of freedom to load whatever we want and we get a lot of feedback from users. It's also a natural tool for us since it's so visual. We have an in-house team of artists who are creating those 5x5 images every day and a lot of us are on the road taking resort pictures and our fans just eat it up.

Why do you think Facebook hasn't made Instagram a more natural selling tool yet? You still need a third-party vendor to sell merchandise.

ET: It's tricky. From the marketer's side, I can understand the feeling of "let's capitalize on this!" But from the customer's perspective, how nice is it that we're keeping the social network pure and everyone has to try a little harder to make some money from it?

What trends to you see developing in social media?

ET: I think the dial on using native ads in Instagram will eventually be turned up. Another trend that we're seeing is using social media to get people to do something together, rather than just posting a picture of yourself. We saw it in the Super Bowl and we're trying that this spring with a campaign of ours that's called #findthelilly. It's about discovering every one of our prints since 1959 that has the word "lilly" in script.

We're also encouraging people to find the lilly on your clothes and share it with us. So, just like people who drive Jeep Wranglers have their Jeep wave, we want to encourage customers to acknowledge each other. If you see someone also wearing the same bright pink dress, stop, say hi, and maybe take a picture together. If we can spur that emotional connection with the community, that would be great.

Is there a way to combine that campaign with sales analytics?

ET: The way we're measuring it is by making our images shoppable with Curalate's "like2 buy" option so we can measure sales from mentions of our prints. We're also using hashtag tracking through Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest so we can see the total impressions coming in. Impressions can seem like a fluffy number, but when we're able to combine it with sales and engagement figures, that allows us to gauge the campaign's effectiveness.