Urban Outfitters' Social Media Strategy Nabs a Striking Number of Followers

At a time when specialty retailers are searching for a way to stay relevant and digitally transform, apparel retailer Urban Outfitters, Inc. is dominating the segment with its social media strategy.

Trish Donnelly, CEO Urban Outfitters Group, said social media is an area where the company is seeing tremendous customer growth and audience engagement.
Urban Outfitters ranked No. 12 in L2’s 7th annual "Digital IQ Index: Specialty Retail" report, which benchmarks the digital performance of 100 brands with a store footprint in the USA (the ranking includes brands from four product categories: Apparel & Accessories, Beauty & Skincare, Home & Gift, and Watches & Jewelry).

According to the report, brands such as Urban Outfitters demonstrate that "there's nothing wrong with specialty retail that can't be fixed with what's right with specialty retail."

The company's engagement on Snapchat is a leading example of what it's doing right with social media. Urban Outfitters' Snapchat viewership is increasing 25% month over month, according to Donnelly.
L2 observed in May, "Urban Outfitters was the most prolific brand on the platform, posting 458 snaps," 83% of which featured video content. The company also invites users to explore new products and can measure which items are popular by number of screenshots.

"This channel has given us yet another relevant way to connect with our customers and engage in two way conversation," said Donnelly. "A great example of this occurred during LGBTQ pride month in June where our Snapchat stories garnered close to 130,000 views."

According to L2, adoption of Snapchat across specialty retail is high, with 47% of brands supporting an official account. In May, L2 observed 11% of those accounts registering daily Snap activity.

Another social realm the company is flourishing in is Instagram. Urban Outfitters' Instagram followers exceeded the 5 million mark during the second quarter 2017, increasing 65% over the prior year. The company is now capturing over 200,000 new followers a month.

In addition to Urban Outfitter's national Instagram accounts, the retail stores manage their local accounts, which accrued almost 700,000 followers and over 19 million likes in the quarter.

The company is also seeing sizeable growth in its home division, where the small space and on-campus home marketing campaigns and social posts were some of its "most engaged in the quarter averaging six-figure customer likes on Instagram," said Donnelly.

Total company sales for the quarter increased by 3% to a second quarter record of $891 million, which included a 1% retail segment comp. Within the retail segment comp, the direct-to-consumer channel continues to outperform stores, posting another double-digit sales gain, driven by an increase in sessions and conversion rate.

Moving the company's digital strategy forward will be Dave Hayne. Urban Outfitters announced the promotion of Hayne to the new Chief Digital Officer for URBN during its second quarter earnings call.

Dave is the son of URBN CEO Richard Hayne, of whom Philadelphia Magazine recently wrote: "Unlike CEOs who become public mascots for their companies, Dick Hayne would prefer not to have a public image at all, a quirk that dovetails with his beliefs about business strategy in a way that shapes the structure and culture of URBN at a molecular level."


The company plans to open a total of approximately 23 new stores for the year, excluding its food and beverage division: three new Urban Outfitters stores, including one in Europe, seven new Anthropologie stores, including two in Europe, and 13 new Free People stores. For the third quarter, six new stores are planned, including one new Anthropologie store in Europe, two new Urban Outfitters stores and three new Free People stores.

During the second quarter the company launched the Home showroom in Space 15 Twenty in Los Angeles, one of its large format stores.

"The showroom shopping experience is truly omnichannel," said Donnelly, "and we'll continue to refine and support this initiative; with a majority of our direct-to-consumer traffic coming through mobile devices, the direct and retail experiences need to be seamless and URBN is committed to supporting this with the necessary team and resources."