This is a guest post by Geri Butner. Follow her on Twitter at @geributner.
Last night, I had the opportunity to attend the Millennial Branding Speaker Spotlight Series at Back Bay Social Club, featuring Rue La La executives Stacey Santo and Colin Hynes. One glass of cabernet and a few business card exchanges into the event, I crowded to the center of the room to listen to Stacey and Colin address important questions about their invite-only marketing, social media and business strategy. In between eyeing all of the stylish outfits the ladies (who made up about 93% of attendees) were wearing, I managed to take away a few interesting points from their talk.
I really liked how Stacey and Colin framed the reasoning behind their invite-only marketing technique. Rue La La doesn’t require a paid membership, but you do have to be invited by a friend to shop their site, which has been interpreted by some as being too exclusive. The whole point of this strategy, however, isn’t to exclude anyone, but to provide free access in a way that mirrors the real world – through who you know.
One reason why Rue La La is so successful as a shopping destination is that they understand their consumers enough to be able to simplify their consumer decisions, and in order to do this well, it’s important to maintain a “friend-of-a-friend” network. Imagine you’re throwing an event that you really want the attendees to enjoy. Do you invite every one of your Facebook friends, or do you invite the people you know and ask them to bring a friend? It makes sense to choose the latter.
Stacey and Colin pointed out that social media isn’t an add-on for their business, it is their business. While they use Twitter and Facebook, the company itself is social media by way of social shopping. They understand that in order to stay on top of their business, they have to engage and respond to customers as quickly as possible. After all, if a company isn’t being transparent and authentic in a timely manner, then someone else will be for them. “Social media is as authentic as it gets.”
One person from the audience asked about ROI for social media, and they responded that when you have clear, defined objectives, the measurement is easy to evaluate. Ultimately, though, you just have to have faith and experiment with what works for your business. It’s important not to turn social media into a popularity contest, because the quality of followers and fans is more important than the quantity.
Something that really resonated with me during Stacey and Colin’s speech was that their business is based on trust. Every day at 11 a.m., they tell hundreds of thousands of shoppers not that they need a little black dress, but exactly which little black dress to consider. Rue La La has the power to simplify our decisions and steer our choices. As long as Rue La La continues to build trust in people through social media and friend-of-a-friend networking, people will happily continue to allow it.
What are your thoughts on Rue La La’s business strategy?