Online apparel retailer Magnolia Boutique spends about 50% of its ad budget on Facebook and Instagram ads to promote categories.
Despite lockdowns during the pandemic, CEO Susan DelPriore says demand for its affordable and seasonal clothing continued throughout 2020. In 2020, sales increased by 28% compared with 2019. That momentum continued in 2021 as web sales increased by 32% compared with 2020.
Magnolia Boutique‘s overall conversion rate is a little more than 3.2% compared with its social media channels, which ranges from about 2 to 2.5%. While Facebook and Instagram make up half its ad budget, the retailer is also increasing its presence on TikTok.
“Our collections are huge for us—when the season launches, we put a lot of our ad budget behind leading customers to our website because we know they will browse other categories and items once they get to our page,” DelPriore says.
If there is a lull in organic web traffic, DelPriore says Magnolia Boutique will promote a specific product, like a best-seller, to help increase the average order value. Magnolia’s AOV is about 30% higher on social media than its site average, partly because of product tagging.
“We make it a point to tag multiple products [in Instagram and TikTok] because it helps us increase our AOV because people are buying the whole look,” DelPriore says. “If, for some reason, something is not working with tagging or we didn’t get around to it, people will start direct messaging or commenting directly on the post asking where they can find it.”
Popular Instagram posts drive traffic to Magnolia Boutique’s web page
Magnolia Boutique has about 230,000 Instagram followers. DelPriore says posts affect web traffic to Magnolia Boutique’s site for approximately 24-48 hours after a post is published. There is a residual traffic increase of about three to four days after a post is published because Instagram displays it in newsfeeds for a few days afterward, she added. Posts featuring influencers with larger followings—500,000 or more—tend to have a longer shelf life and drive traffic for 72 hours or more, she says.
The online retailer’s most popular posts include one from Sept. 10, 2021, which featured Instagram influencer Laura Beverlin, who has a following of 1.2 million. She’s shown wearing clothing from Magnolia Boutique’s fall 2021 line. While the products aren’t tagged, the post resulted in a 15% increase in web traffic but a hefty boost in web sales, which increased by 79% compared with a typical day. Magnolia Boutique noted the shirt name in the caption.
A promoted post of a floral dress became a hit on Sept. 29, 2021. It resulted in a 62% increase in web traffic and a 72% increase in web sales during the 48-hour period after publishing the post. This is Magnolia Boutique’s most popular Instagram post to date.
Another popular Instagram post published Oct. 28, 2021, titled “The Hollie Edit,” featured influencer Hollie Woodward, who has 1.2 million followers on Instagram. She’s seen wearing an item from Magnolia Boutique’s fall 2021 collection launch. This increased traffic to the retailer’s website, as well as web sales, by 35% each during the 48 hours after publishing.
“This time of year plays a big role in how our posts perform,” DelPriore says. “We see the most traffic and conversion in the spring and fall seasons. These are the times that our customers are looking to update their wardrobe or plan for an upcoming trip or event. They are looking at social media for ease of shopping as well as fashion inspiration.”
DelPriore declined to disclose how much of overall web sales are attributed to social channels.
Determining which products to promote requires understanding how different social channels promote product categories, says Sharon Gee, vice president of revenue growth at BigCommerce. Online retailers like Magnolia Boutique use the software’s channel manager feature to run its site using integrations into Google, Facebook, Amazon, Instagram and TikTok. The integration allows the retailer to distribute its products on these channels and track how they perform.
BigCommerce engineers work to update the software to stay current with each channel’s evolving features. For example, in recent weeks, TikTok has added the capability for retailers to tag products, similar to Instagram. Viewers can tap on the tagged products and are redirected to a retailer’s website within the TikTok app, or redirected to a consumer’s browser like Safari or Chrome.
If a retailer wants to start selling on TikTok, it can log into BigCommerce’s channel manager and click on TikTok. By doing so, attribution and real-time tracking is activated, allowing Magnolia Boutique to see how much web traffic and web revenue is a result of a shopper interacting with a post on that specific channel, Gee says.
TikTok as a growing driver
Facebook and Instagram are the online retailer’s stalwart advertising channels, but DelPriore says TikTok is growing. The retailer currently has 10,600 followers on the platform. On Nov. 11, 2021, a Magnolia Boutique video on TikTok yielded more than 750,000 views, resulting in a 12% increase in web traffic compared with the day before. Overall online sales jumped by 35% compared with the site average. The video’s popularity significantly outpaced its typical number of views, which usually number in the hundreds or low thousands, without paid promotion.
“Initially, we had over 650,000 views without any paid promotion,” DelPriore says.
The retailer started using it as a paid TikTok ad, and views increased to more than 750,000.
DelPriore says the online retailer noticed through BigCommerce’s platform that TikTok performed differently compared to other social channels. In general, shoppers prefer TikTok videos that are educational and have a less polished production value, she says. One popular TikTok video showed which shoes to wear with the latest in jeans styles. And when shoppers see what goes well together, they start shopping, she says.
“We posted a funny video, and it took off,” DelPriore says. “The TikTok videos revealed to us that whatever items we do decide to post about, we better make sure we have enough inventory before we post it.”
Strategizing how to use influencers on TikTok is different from Instagram, DelPriore says.
“TikTok is more willing to do a collaboration or trade for merchandise, whereas on Instagram, it’s reached a point where you really have to spend a lot to get multiple posts,” she says.
Magnolia Boutique is reallocating some of its ad budget to hire content creators who will work with the retailer to create TikTok-specific content.
“When an influencer posts, the effect is instantaneous,” DelPriore says. “I think people relate to influencers as a real person walking around with kids, doing everyday things and they think, ‘I have to have that,’ and they buy it.”