How do you know you’re winning at e-commerce? When you offer a rock for $85, and it sells out.

Last week, a stone in a leather pouch that Nordstrom offered on its website went viral on social media as consumers pondered the reason for its existence. “Still trying to figure out if this $80 rock being sold at @Nordstrom is a joke,” one user Tweeted. In the resulting flurry of fame, the product rapidly sold out.

Nordstrom rock

Was the rock a clever strategy on Nordstrom’s part, or simply a spot of good luck?

For evidence that it was the former, look no further than the retailer’s impressive social credentials. Nordstrom earned the top spot in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Department Stores by stirring up impressive engagement on Instagram and Facebook: on the latter platform, it generates 18 times more interactions than the average brand. If any retailer knows how to make a rock in a pouch go viral, it might be Nordstrom.

For other retailers, the rock incident also offers a case study in how to stand out. Nearly half of shoppers now discover products online, making search visibility a vital component of success. Selling a single product that can generate significant hype on social platforms – like the rock in a pouch – might be the best option they have to compete with the growing threat of Amazon.

L2's Daily Insights in Your Inbox.