Wal-Mart fans on Facebook can now connect to local stores
Wal-Mart has struck a partnership with Facebook to help its 9 million fans on the social networking service connect with their local stores just in time for the all-important holiday shopping season.
The world's largest retailer is rolling out more than 3,500 Facebook pages that it says will enable customers to interact directly with their local store.
The effort could perk up sales in a shaky economy. Wal-Mart is looking for ways to appeal to its low- to middle-income shoppers on tight budgets as they wrestle with higher gasoline and food prices, a housing slump, a turbulent stock market and stubbornly high unemployment.
Wal-Mart, the U.S. discount chain run by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., says its Facebook fans have asked to be alerted to new local products, rollbacks (additional savings) and in-store events. Now those fans who sign up with their local store can get that kind of information in their news feeds, said Stephen Quinn, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Walmart U.S.
Quinn said that retailing remains a "fundamentally local business" and that Facebook has become an important way for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer to interact with shoppers. He noted that Wal-Mart is bringing back layaway because its shoppers on Facebook asked for it. And shoppers will be able to download a map of merchandise in their local stores.
Carolyn Everson, vice president of global marketing solutions at Facebook, said more than half of active adult users on Facebook follow brands.
Quinn declined to say whether any money is changing hands in the partnership. He acknowledged that the partnership involves buying advertising but said Wal-Mart does not disclose how much it spends on advertising on particular outlets.
Wal-Mart is looking to perk up sales growth at stores open at least a year. Its U.S. same-store sales have fallen for nine quarters but picked up in July. Wal-Mart is banking on quarterly U.S. same-store sales growth sometime this year.
Facebook is trying to attract more advertising dollars and spending on its service as it ramps up for an initial public offering in 2012. It competes with Google, Yahoo and other online services for eyeballs and ads.
Research firm EMarketer expects Facebook to become the top seller of display advertising in the U.S. this year, surpassing Yahoo. The world's largest social networking service, with more than 800 million users, will generate $4.27 billion in revenue this year, more than double the $2 billion it made in 2010, according to EMarketer.
-- Jessica Guynn