Walmart, Facebook yield mobile benefits

18 December 2012

NEW YORK: Walmart, the retailer, and Facebook, the social network, both gained significant benefits from partnering on a mobile marketing drive, a move reflecting the two companies' evolving strategies.

Starting on Black Friday, Walmart and Facebook ran a 72-hour mobile campaign encompassing a total of 50m ads, an effort which constituted the social network's largest single initiative to date.

As a result of this tie-up, offers on Walmart products ranging from toys to television sets appeared in the news feeds of millions of US consumers logging on to Facebook using wireless devices.

Whereas brands typically pay for Facebook ads only after they have been displayed to its members, Walmart bought the relevant inventory in advance, thus giving it an advantage over other brands.

Stephen Quinn, Walmart's chief marketing officer, told the Wall Street Journal that the organisation's previous digital campaigns "never saw this level of engagement", as this scheme yielded around 100k comments.

Facebook provided statistics covering campaign performance to Walmart as the initiative was running. The retailer could also track trends and adapt its strategy accordingly, for example by adding speakers worth $88 to its brand page, which then sold out.

SocialBakers, the social media insights group, stated that Walmart attracted 164k new fans on Facebook during the Thanksgiving weekend, and had over 1m interactions per day on its brand page.

While some comments were negative - such as several discussing issues like wages and working conditions, as well as unwanted ads - Walmart remained positive about the effort overall.

Indeed, Walmart bought 2bn ads on Facebook for the holiday season, a total three times higher than in 2011. It is also already formulating its strategy with Facebook for Black Friday in 2013. "We realise it sits right at the core, of customer service," said Quinn.

Facebook is also considering offering this type of service to other big companies as part of a broader effort, starting in September, to be more proactive in asking precisely what its clients need.

"I tell them, 'Don't walk in with a PowerPoint talking about Facebook products.' You go in and ask questions," said Carolyn Everson, Facebook's vice president of global marketing, a unit which oversees business with roughly 1,500 brands.

As part of this process, Facebook has assisted Samsung, the telecoms group, in running bespoke video ads, as well as promoting messages from the company's allies. This yielded $129m in sales from Samsung, some 14 times the original spend.

Facebook also helped conglomerate General Electric build a health-based app before the 2012 Olympics, providing engineers to help it through this process.

Beth Comstock, GE's chief marketing officer, said: "[Facebook has] given us some of their best people."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff