Facebook shoppingIf the racks of clothes at C&A's Brazilian stores could talk, they'd say, "You like me! You really like me!"

The international fashion chain is testing the power of Facebook (FB) to prompt in store purchases with hangers that digitally display the number of "likes" an item racks up on the social network, in real time.

The retailer is betting that more "likes" will mean greater sales of an item -- but will they?

"There hasn't really been research yet measuring the value of a 'like' in-store, since this is such a new area for marketing," Krista Garcia, an analyst with digital market research firm eMarketer, tells DailyFinance.

But the value of "likes" on Facebook itself might offer a clue.

Although figures vary, a new study by Imbue Marketing has "determined that a 'like' is worth $8, and a share on Facebook is worth even more, at $14," she says.

While the jury is still out on if retailers can meaningfully monetize their Facebook pages to drive product sales -- either online or in their brick-and-mortar stores -- marketers are clearly seeing the growing influence of peer opinions on social networks.

Retailers and consumer products companies, meanwhile, are recognizing that traditional advertising must now compete with a modern-day version of word of mouth: A thumbs up for a product from a peer on a social network -- be it a Facebook like, or a positive comment from a stylish shopper on a fashion blog -- can carry more weight than a store advertisement or promotion, marketers say.

So in theory, a popular fashion item "like"-wise, as measured by C&A's Facebook-connected hangers, could translate into bigger store sales for the chain.

"Most customers are followers, and if they see other people like a product, it will influence their purchase decision," commented Ed Dunn, founder of Stealth Operation, on RetailWire's online forum on the topic. "I don't know if the hanger is the best touch point for this information, but this type of information will increase sales due to the social science at play with customers who want to be in the in-crowd."

Would a high tally of Facebook “likes” for a product featured in a store encourage you to buy it?
Yes107 (7.1%)
Maybe256 (16.9%)
No798 (52.7%)
It would discourage my purchase353 (23.3%)
And U.S. retailers, which often adopt merchandising innovations from forward-thinking international merchants, could follow C&A's lead, Garcia says.

So far, most retailers attempting to integrate Facebook with their in-store marketing "haven't moved beyond signage that advertises their Facebook page, posting QR codes and encouraging customers to 'like' them," she says.

Macy's (M) latest Facebook retail experiment goes a little further. The department store's Magic Fitting Room allows shoppers to try on clothes virtually in a fitting room "with a screen that superimposes clothing on their reflection," Garcia says. "The looks shoppers put together can be posted to Facebook to share with friends."

"Having a shopper 'like' you can be the first step in a relationship. There's no doubt about that," Wendy Liebmann, CEO and chief shopper of WSL Strategic Retail, a marketing consulting firm that works with manufacturers and retailers, tells DailyFinance. However, for many shoppers, that's not enough, she says.

"Shoppers tell us they expect to actually get something for liking you. That means an offer, a discount, something special. Otherwise, you're just one more 'like' in an ever-growing sea of 'likes.'"




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