In 2020, life changed before consumers’ eyes and societal norms shifted daily amidst the global pandemic. For a department store like Belk, continuing to safely open its doors to customers meant more than it ever had before. Belk knew it needed to meet consumers where they were every challenging step of the way.
While already working to find ways to expand its e-commerce options to ensure customers could shop whenever, wherever and however, the pandemic placed a sense of urgency on Belk’s omnichannel efforts. In other words, it was time to modernize. For the first time in the 133-year-old company’s history, .com and mobile app offerings began to drive business and paved the way for the retailer’s rollout of Contactless Curbside Pickup and Same Day Delivery. Both services were impactful, but Belk knew more opportunity to give back awaited and its loyal customers deserved safety and happiness – especially heading into the holiday season.
The holidays during an ongoing global pandemic offered many a sense of joy and wonder once again, but it also welcomed fear and anxiety around in-store shopping. Staying safe while purchasing affordable gifts for loved ones was a top priority for consumers. So, to help make seasonal shopping a little merrier for its communities facing hardships in 2020, Belk launched Very Merry Surprise.
Leveraging buy online pickup in-store and curbside pickup (BOPIS), a staple of its omnichannel services, Belk went above and beyond to cultivate a rewards program that awarded customers for choosing safe options. During the seven weeks leading up to the holidays, one shopper per day at every Belk location across its 16-state footprint was surprised and delighted with gift cards equivalent to the price of their purchase, up to $575. To further encourage customers to shop safely during the holiday season, Belk offered an extra 10% off to those who purchased online and picked up in-store or curbside.
Media integration proved value in increasing awareness of Belk’s new giveaway program. The retailer partnered with FleishmanHillard to garner earned local and national media traction, as well as coordinate paid broadcast segments with top stations across the retailer’s priority media markets – Birmingham, Ala., Charleston, S.C., Charlotte, N.C., Columbia, S.C., Huntsville, Ala., Knoxville, Tenn. and Raleigh, N.C. In total, the team’s media relations efforts generated 8 earned digital placements in national, syndicated and trade outlets, such as USA Today, Home Textiles Today and iHeart Radio, and 8 paid local media placements, resulting in more than 174 million impressions.
Influencer programming took flight, as well, as Belk and FleishmanHillard partnered with three local-to-its communities micro-influencers to showcase the ease of BOPIS and encourage their social followers to complete their holiday shopping at Belk.com with the possibility of earning gift cards totaling their holiday shopping order. To tie into the season of giving, each influencer was contracted to host their own surprise and delight. From helping associates surprise selected customers to hosting Instagram giveaways and surprising someone who has dedicated her heart and time to the Live Boundless Ecuador wheelchair donation program with a $100 Belk gift card and a $300 donation – (the price of one wheelchair making its way to Ecuador this year), the influencers made spirits bright for the people within its communities who deserved it most.
In just over one week’s time, the influencers published a total of 31 posts generating 633.8K impressions, 10.1K engagements, 11.7K video views and an 8.65% average engagement rate (engagements/video views and engagement rate not inclusive of Instagram Stories).
Through the Very Merry Surprise campaign, Belk brought joy to more than 15,000 customers and gave away roughly $776,000 gift cards averaging about $50 worth of gift cards per customer. Additionally, the Belk mobile app was downloaded more than 340,000 times between November 27 and December 24 – a 219% increase from 2019.
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