Unwrapping Barneys’ holiday social media strategy

In the holiday spirit, Barneys is attracting new Instagram followers with the promise of thousands of dollars in gift giveaways.

Beginning today, the retailer is hosting a series of gift giveaways on its social media channels, with the hashtag “Barneys Unwrapped.” From December 4 to 9, Barneys will be giving away items from its holiday gift collection, including a pair of Gucci pineapple sunglasses ($1,240), Sidney Garber earrings ($3,200) and an MDNA skin-care set, signed by creator Madonna ($1,390). Each day during the giveaways, Barneys will post a video created by photographer Mason Poole to its Instagram account. Those who follow Barneys on Instagram and leave a comment will get a chance to win. The randomly chosen winner will be announced with a second post, as well as the gift unboxing, at the end of the day.

This is the second year Barneys has hosted a gift giveaway during the holidays, but in the first year, it relied on a network of social media influencers to run the contests. This year, the retailer wanted to turn attention to its own social account. While the contest is only running on Instagram, Barneys is promoting it across all social channels, in the window displays of its stores and through a dedicated email blast.

“We had great engagement and awareness last year, thanks to the influencers. This year, we thought it would be a good opportunity to grow our followers to get our audience involved. We don’t do a lot of giveaways or promotions, so it’s exciting,” said Marissa Rosenblum, Barneys’ senior editorial director.

The holidays are a crucial period for department stores that are losing market share to luxury marketplaces like Net-a-Porter, speciality online stores and Amazon. Overall, Barneys’ holiday season strategy is based on establishing a more direct relationship with customers — something that brand partners have been seeking — as well as offering exclusive items that can’t be found elsewhere. Most of the gifts that were chosen for the giveaways are exclusive to Barneys, and Rosenblum said participating brands were chosen for their buzzy status.

“The brands were excited to participate. I think it’s really interesting being on the social side at Barneys, seeing these heritage brands who are having a moment. They’re a lot more into experimenting and doing things they wouldn’t have touched even a year ago,” she said.

Outside of the giveaways, artists Simon and Nicolas Haas, which designed all of Barneys holiday decor and the 2017 holiday theme, Haas of Holiday, also made an exclusive holiday collection for the retailer, which includes cashmere shirts and sweaters, skateboard decks and candles.

“Department stores, for a lot of today’s customers, have too much inventory that just isn’t exciting,” said Jane Hali, a retail analyst at her firm Jane Hali and Associates and a former buyer. “All of them need to edit their assortment and offer things [customers] can’t find anywhere else — it’s the only way to differentiate themselves at this point. Barneys is realizing that the holidays are the most important time to do this.”

The retailer is also hosting in-store events, a charity campaign and an interactive display in its store windows. While Barneys didn’t seek out influencers to promote the giveaway campaign this year, they will be coming into play with the charity arm of the company’s holiday plan: Influencers Olivia Lopez and Jay Versace are promoting the hashtag #HaasRules — with every post the hashtag generates, The Barneys New York Foundation will donate $5 to the Children’s Disease Fund.

“Influencers are very important to our overall holiday strategy, but we wanted to shift the attention of the gift giveaway to our own account to grow our followers,” said Rosenblum. “It’s a noisy time of year, and we wanted the campaign to stand out — promotions and giveaways are not something we typically do.”


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