#DR1MM: Wall Street event marks Duane Reade Twitter milestone

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NEW YORK — Duane Reade marked its milestone of surpassing 1 million Twitter followers Tuesday night at an invitation-only event in its store on Wall Street.

The 250-store chain, owned by Walgreens and a longtime iconic New York brand, said that it saw a 6,709% increase in Twitter followers between September 2012 and September 2013 - from 10,000 a year ago to more than 1 million today. That makes it Twitter's most-followed retailer in the drug, food and mass arena worldwide.

"I'm confident that we'll continue to evolve and remain a New York retail standard," Walgreens VP digital marketing and customer experience Deepika Pandey said in remarks at the event, which included executives from Duane Reade, Walgreens, Twitter and also figures like Ramy Gafni, founder of Ramy Cosmetics.

Much of the leadership in the chain's social media growth has come from digital communications manager Calvin Peters.

"This social milestone is all about our customers and represents the ability and focus we have to seamlessly reach them whenever and wherever they are with useful content they crave and now have come to expect via effective two-way communications," Peters said in a statement. "Our goal has been social community building and expanding relevant engagement to enhance our overall customer experience; achieving this while also creating social communication vehicles that can generate tangible ROI results for both corporate and vendor initiatives have proven successful."

The company's strategy is called "parallel persuasion," which is designed to generate return on investment through omnichannel engagement, based on brand advocacy, brand voice, public relations integration and conversation relevance. Duane Reade received the 2013 Silver Hub Prize for Social Shopper Media and Shopper Marketing campaigns thanks to the program. Twitter has also played an important role in the retailer's social media efforts.

"I think ultimately, we're trying to help retail connect with existing customers and help them find new customers," Twitter head of retail partnerships Chris Riedy told DSN. "I think what we want to do is just continue the lifecycle."

Social media engagement has paid off in terms of sales as well. According to the retailer, its consumer-generated, media-focused "Get Social" program resulted in increased sales and ROI, including a 28% lift in sales of Duane Reade Legwear through its #DRLegwear "Show Us Some Leg" social amplification vendor campaign, while the industry was experiencing a 5% sales decrease in the category. Following the campaign, sales have been up by 21% year-over-year as of July.

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