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How Express could introduce two-way Snapchat marketing to retailers

Express? use of its public Snapchat account to foster two-way communication between the brand and its loyal fans could soon bring other millennial-friendly retailers to the fray, especially once they discover the potential for receiving customer feedback on new styles.

The retailer has been taking to its Snapchat Story to issue calls-to-action to its followers, encouraging them to send photos back to the account of themselves donning Express? latest styles for a chance to be featured on the public account. The ability to respond to Snapchat Stories may come in handy for retailers seeking to undertake quick surveys of new products or build long-lasting relationships with consumers in a way that feels organic.

?Any vehicle that fosters two-way communication with customers is a valuable marketing tool,? said David Naumann, director of marketing at Boston Retail Partners, Boston. ?Express is taking Snapchat to the next level to enhance engagement with its brand enthusiasts.?

?According to Snapchat statistics, 86 percent of Snapchat users are under 35 years old,? he said. ?Retailers that are popular among millennial and younger generations are an ideal fit to leverage Snapchat to curate more intimate relationships with their customers.?

New marketing method
While maintaining active Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts is a key strategy for any retailer, brands must ensure that their social media usage does not become stagnant and lackluster.

Posting aesthetically-pleasing imagery on Instagram could spark some inspiration or desire for a product, but generally does not promote two-way communication between the marketer and user unless there is a direct call-to-action.

Express has been showcasing some of its upcoming fall looks on its Snapchat Story that can be viewed by anyone who follows the brand on the photo-sharing application. 

However, the retailer is taking its marketing efforts one step further by asking fans to respond to its Stories with their own comment or Snapchat displaying how the styles look on real consumers.

The brand then looks through all submitted Snaps, and chooses its top three to post at the end of the week for all followers to see, thereby giving the selected fans increased exposure.

This offers individuals an incentive to get their hands on new items and become excited about wearing them. 

Additionally, when a brand asks for specific responses from all consumers, they begin to feel like less of a number and more of a valued customer.

?At this point, all bets are pretty much off when it comes to marketing methods,? said Steve Rowen, managing partner at Retail Systems Research, Miami, FL. ?Is it worth trying? Absolutely.

?If it works well, then that?s just all the better.?

Aggregating feedback
This strategy could also be an optimal way for brands to disperse one-question surveys to a wide range of customers, and receive feedback on styles. 

Many time-strapped consumers will not consent to filling out a long questionnaire about new items, but would be more likely to reply to one public question with a thumbs up or thumbs down.

For instance, a brand seeking real reactions for a piece of clothing could upload the product to its public Snapchat Story, and ask fans to respond to the Snap by rating its wearability on a scale of one to five.

?It all depends on sample size,? Mr. Rowen said. ?It would be great to see what kind of information they get back: what types of customers, what types of non-customers -- there?s bound to be lots of fans taking dressing room selfies that don?t result in sales -- and the overall response pool.

?If it?s just a trickle of information, that actually becomes dangerous information upon which to make large-scale decisions,? he said. ?If it proves to provide a quorum, then absolutely: it becomes a data stream of genuine value.

?But they won?t know until they try.?

Express has found many ways of leveraging Snapchat to reach younger consumers. 

Recently, it tapped the photo-sharing application to demonstrate a day in the life of a corporate intern and drive job applications among millennials, a move that could become more popular among other retailers (see story).

?Picking the best Snapchat images and showcasing them on the Snapchat public account is a great way to create friendly competition and reward the best fans with social recognition,? Boston Retail Partners? Mr. Naumann said. ?This is a form of retail gamification. Based on our retail surveys, gamification is growing from an experimental strategy to mainstream over the next three to five years. 

?According to our 2015 CRM/Unified Commerce Survey, gamification adoption jumped from 6 percent to 31 percent in the past year and there is a 181 percent planned increase within the next five years.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely, editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York