Using Facebook to drive trial and ‘likes’
Aveda manufactures and markets plant-based hair care, skin care, makeup and lifestyle products, and runs professional hair salons and spas as well as retail stores. The brand’s Smooth Infusion Sampling App ran on Facebook from December 17 through 22, 2010. The brand has conducted many sampling programs before, but this one marked its first foray into sampling through Facebook.
Aveda had three objectives in implementing its Smooth Infusion Sampling App on Facebook:
- Drive trial of its Smooth Infusion products, specifically its Smooth Infusion Style Prep Smoother for hair.
- Increase the number of “likes” to Aveda’s Facebook page.
- Drive new users throughout the year to purchase the Smooth Infusion line. Aveda undertook a major advertising and promotional push in stores and salons to support the line twice during the year-long focus.
The brand launched a sampling app on its Facebook page on a Friday afternoon. Consumers had to go to a specific tab, could view a product video to learn more about the product, click to order the sample and enter their name and shipping address. The first 5,000 people who entered were to receive a confirmation screen that indicated they would receive a sample pack scheduled to arrive within four weeks. Because Aveda wanted to bring new customers to the page, it made a one-day Facebook ad buy consisting of display ads and keywords. The sampling program was promoted via the ad buy that brought people to the tab.
“We knew from watching other brands run similar sampling apps that we didn’t want to disappoint people who didn’t make it into the first 5,000, so made sure we had an offer that guests could redeem in stores or salons after we ran out of the 5,000 samples.”
—Rachael Ostrom, executive director of consumer engagement, Aveda, in an interview with eMarketer
Things didn’t go exactly as planned, however. The app continued to confirm samples would be sent far past the initial 5,000 entrants. And worse, after Aveda shut down the app, a glitch with Facebook prevented the company from discovering who the first 5,000 participants had been.
Aveda alerted participants that an error occurred, informing them that it didn’t know who the first 5,000 people were and therefore didn’t know who to mail the samples to. The brand informed participants that it would relaunch the app on Tuesday, December 21, and would give away 20,000 trio packs. After the 20,000, they shut off the app and people were served a screen that informed them that they didn’t make the cut-off, but invited them to come into an Aveda store or salon nearby to receive a trio pack.
In addition, if anyone came to the Facebook page and commented that they were in the first 5,000 and didn’t make it in the new 20,000 group, Aveda invited them to call customer relations to get a trio pack shipped to them.
“We set up a long note explaining what had happened. We even linked to the Facebook Producer page where the error was discussed. We were completely open with what had happened,” Ostrom explained.
Despite the glitch, Aveda garnered 52,000 new “likes” over the course of the five-day period, representing a 50% increase to the existing count.
Aveda also experienced a 30.5% sales lift for Style Prep products year-over-year as of January 2011, and sales continue to increase in Aveda’s ongoing fiscal year. Ostrom qualified the sales lift: “We don’t necessarily have a way to isolate the impact of this program alone because it was the combined effect of using print advertising, other digital programs and a sampling app,” adding that Aveda has had significant activity during the entire year around the line.
Aveda was concerned that its negative tonal sentiment would increase significantly in December 2010. This proved not to be the case: In December, the brand achieved its highest positive tonal sentiment since launching a Facebook page in July 2009. In addition, as of April 21, 2011, Aveda reported 202,104 “likes.”
Aveda learned not to launch a sampling app on a Friday—if there’s a glitch on a Monday, at least the troops are in the office to handle it. However, Ostrom notes Aveda was able to leverage an advantage: “We had an offer that could be redeemed in stores and in salons for anyone who experienced a problem. Having offline outlets for fulfillment was important in this case.”
Ostrom recommends that marketers ensure that their team monitors the back-end mechanics closely so if there is a glitch, they can catch it instantly with the first five or 10 people who opt in.
Transparency was critically important in a case like this one. “We were just completely transparent but it was hard because on Saturday, we didn’t really know what to tell people. People weren’t thrilled about it,” Ostrom recalled. Aveda also had a staffer responding to questions all weekend.