Kohl’s attracted more than 121,000 mentions on social media in the last week, 52,000 more mentions than the next most-mentioned retailer.

Kohl’s Corp. had its highest grossing day ever online last week. Then, less than a week later, the multichannel retailer, No. 22 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, beat its own mark. The retailer declines to share either the specific days that produced those results or sales figures.

While there are many explanations for the strong sales, marketing—including the retailer’s robust social media marketing strategy—surely played a role, says Bevin Bailis, senior vice president, communications and public relations, who oversees social media strategy at Kohl’s.

“We can’t say that the sales are directly linked to social media or marketing but we can say that it’s a combination of having the right products, insight-driven pricing and the right messages that our customers are responding to,” she says. “We have a long way to go, but the early signs are promising. We couldn’t be happier as we head into December.”

Kohl’s results were likely helped by aggressive promotional campaigns: The retailer offered shoppers 20% off online and in stores from Nov. 28-Dec. 1; the “Eight Days of Deep Cyber Savings” discounts on electronics, jewelry and toys; electronics deals from Nov. 26- 30; and flash sales every day this week.

On top of those discounts, the retailer made a strong push to use social media to drive sales. “We’ve transformed the way we use social media in the past 12 months,” Bailis says. “A year ago we were focused on enhancing awareness of Kohl’s and the brands we sell. Now we see it as a selling channel.”


The retailer “significantly increased” its social media ad spending this holiday season and changed the way its social media marketing team works. Prior to this holiday season the retailer’s marketing and broadcast marketing teams would collaborate on the brand’s campaign and then would share the creative assets they developed with Kohl’s public relations and social media teams. Now the social media team is involved in the development of the marketing campaigns, which this year focuses around the theme “All Together Now,” as it seeks to encourage consumers to spend time with “the people who matter most” through TV ads, as well as social media.

The shift helped Kohl’s develop more integrated campaigns, Bailis says. For instance, when the retailer wanted to highlight Star Wars products by giving away tickets to “The Force Awakens” to the first 100 shoppers at each store on Black Friday, it also created a social media sweepstakes t that requires shoppers to include the hashtags #ForceOfFamily and #KohlsSweepstakes in a tweet to be eligible to win free tickets.

The retailer’s social media efforts also included a Black Friday campaign that gave shoppers who retweeted Kohl’s tweets featuring select products the chance to win a $500 gift card or all 30 of the featured products. Those retweets helped boost the retailer’s impressions on Twitter 70% compared to last year’s Friday after Thanksgiving. Kohl’s, which also ran a sweepstakes last year, says it generated roughly 194,000 retweets during its sweepstakes campaign; last year its campaign produced about 23,000 retweets. “Retweets are a sign of engagement,” Bailis says. “We think our customers are showing us that we understand what they want.”

Kohl’s social media campaigns helped Kohl’s net more than 121,000 mentions between Nov. 23-30, at least 52,000 more than any other large retailer tracked by Salesforce.com Inc. That helped Kohl’s—which ranks 194 in the 2015 Social Media 500, an Internet Retailer database that ranks retailers on the percentage of their overall traffic that stems from social networks—“win” the Thanksgiving weekend when it came to social media, says Shelly Bransten, senior vice president, retail and consumer products industry solutions at Salesforce.com

“Kohl’s figured out how to connect social media with its other channels,” she says.


The campaigns likely helped Kohl’s grow web traffic 10% year over year on Black Friday, which was one of the best year-over-year performances on the day, according to web measurement firm SimilarWeb Ltd. For the sake of comparison, traffic at other large retail sites SimilarWeb tracks declined 11% year over year. Moreover, traffic to the retailer’s app jumped 23.1% on Black Friday compared with Thanksgiving Day.

Kohl’s isn’t done. This week the retailer will have a truck in New York that features popular gifts, as well as a story booth where consumers can record their holiday traditions. To promote the truck, Kohl’s made a major Snapchat ad buy in which it will place two Kohl’s-produced videos within the NYC local story section of the app that will “illustrate holiday traditions” and seek to drive people to the truck.  It will also use geo-filters running in the New York area that consumers can add to their snaps.

“It’s all about engaging with shoppers,” Bailis says. “We have to continue to listen to people and respond with relevant content.”