Foursquare users who checked in at one of fifteen Neiman Marcus stores on October 1st might have received a notification indicating that a special prize was hidden nearby, along with this message: “Where the red soles roam,” cluing them in to where they should start their hunts. Lucky winners who found special rewards cards tucked among stacks of shoes and racks of clothes snagged Nancy Gonzalez clutches. Those who didn’t win the big prize were still eligible to receive smaller rewards, like cookies, notebooks, and credit card holders, just for checking-in.
The Foursquare event “tracked a tremendous lift in media coverage and positive commentary” for Neiman. Here, Jean Scheidnes, who manages social media for the retailer, talks more about the campaign.
How did the Foursquare handbag hunt come about?
We were partnering with Nancy Gonzalez for a shoe and handbag event promotion on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you spent $350 on shoes and handbags, you had a choice of a gift with purchase, and there were three [gifts to choose from]. Our largest objective was to create excitement for the promotional event. We were [already] looking for an interesting way to make a foray into Foursquare when we got the idea to expand upon that. In addition to what we did on Foursquare, every store held a drawing for one of the Nancy Gonzalez clutches.
Have you done anything with Foursquare before?
Nope, first time.
So how exactly did the Foursquare promotion work?
It was really deceptively simple. People would come in—they needed to come into a Neiman Marcus store—and check-in on Foursquare. As you know, there were 15 bags hidden across the country and we have 41 stores, so there wasn’t an instant winner in every store. But by coming in you could find out if your store was hiding a clutch.
Rather than literally hide the clutches, we hid cards with the clutches printed on them. When the user checked into Foursquare they got a message. If there was a clutch to be found in that store at that time, the message instructed them to look for the card and included a clue. For example, “Where the red soles roam,” which was a reference to Christian Louboutin. The card was hidden among the Christian Louboutin shoes. From that point, they simply searched with their own senses and engaged with the merchandise and associates. If they found the card, they followed the instructions on it to claim the clutch. Each time zone had a four-hour window [for people to find the clutches]. It was from noon to 4 p.m., and in some stores they found it in three or five minutes. In other stores they needed the full four hours.
Once the clutch had been found in that location, we also would update the message [on Foursquare]. If the clutch in your location had already been found, or if [that location] wasn’t hiding one, then you would get instructions to either register to win or to collect a consolation price. There were variations based on the store. Every store did invite you to register to win, so in any case you had an opportunity to win. We gave stores the opportunity to customize their consolation prizes, to the extent that they could give away whatever they wanted. A lot of them did our famous chocolate chip cookie, and some of us did Neiman Marcus notebooks, Neiman Marcus credit card holders, beauty products, and small things like that.
What were your specific goals going into the event?
Our biggest goals were to create excitement for the shoe and handbag event and to test Foursquare and let people know our locations are on Foursquare and to entice them to continue checking in.
Now that the event has happened, did it achieve those goals?
Oh yeah. We got so much buzz for this. The participants were very engaged. I think people had a lot of fun in the stores that day and it created a lot of excitement within the shoe and handbag departments in the stores.
Do you know how many people checked in at any of the stores that day?
We do, but I can’t divulge that because we don’t divulge any traffic figures.
How do you judge the effectiveness of a promotion you run through LBS or even social media?
You have to take a really holistic look. Certainly, we are interested in whether it drives traffic and sales, but we also look at how much engagement it creates. What is the quality of that engagement? Does it create buzz? What did it do for our brand? Did people see us in a new light? Did it delight our customers? When we evaluate the success of a social initiative, we look at the effect on sales and traffic, as any retailer must, but we also consider things like the amount of social engagement, the quality of those engagements, what kind of buzz it creates, what it does for the brand and for customer sentiment. Some of those things are easily trackable and quantifiable, while some are anecdotal or impressionistic, and some are both. We listen to the feedback from customers, our store teams, our social networks, and the media. We take a holistic view.
So how did the Foursquare promotion measure up?
We tracked a tremendous lift in media coverage and positive commentary on our social networks. We received great feedback from the participants, both through our store teams on the ground with them and through social networks. To use Twitter as an example: I personally track all mentions of [Neiman Marcus] on Twitter, so I saw and responded to every participant who tweeted that they had a blast in store, liked the rewards, and thought the concept was very clever. I thanked each one personally. There is a lot of crossover between Twitter users and Foursquare users. Twitter is where they voiced their reactions to the game, and it was overwhelmingly positive in tone.
How did you promote the event beforehand?
Just a coordinated PR outreach, and we utilized all of our other social networks. We have a blog called NMdaily, and we posted about it on Facebook and Twitter [Editor's note: Neiman has 463,978 fans on Facebook and 39,528 followers on Twitter]. So, we leveraged the audiences we already had.
How do you decide which platforms to work with when you’re putting together a location-based promotion?
It’s a balance of what the critical mass of users already is for that platform and where we believe our customers are already active. You know, we weigh that against what technologies we also want to just experiment with and test and learn with. With Foursquare, we already had some pretty strong signs that we have customers who are already checking into our stores and who are already eager to interact with us on that platform. So, we responded to that.
What were those signs?
[Customers] were checking in. Foursquare enables us to track the check-ins at our locations. I also see many of the Foursquare check-ins on Twitter because users link their accounts and add a few words.
How does this compare to any promotions you’ve run with SCVNGR in the past?
It’s vastly simplified. When people came in to play SCVNGR they needed to check-in multiple times. So, it prompted you through a series of mini challenges, but with Foursquare all they needed to do—all they can do—is check-in once.
So is the ease of use part of what made this recent promotion such a success?
Well Foursquare definitely has a broader base to begin with. SCVNGR is much more of a startup. So, we didn’t have as many challenges as we did with educating people about SCVNGR since it was such a new technology.
Are you planning on running any promotions with location-based services in the future?
Yeah, we’re always looking. I can say pretty confidently that we will continue using Foursquare as a regular communication tool, so people can get information just by checking in on a regular basis whenever they are on in store—the way that Foursquare users are already in the habit of doing. We want to encourage that. And then we’re open to special challenges and initiatives also.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.