Report: Social Insights on the Retail Industry Research

By James Lovejoy on June 16th 2016

While only around 7.5% of retail sales occur online, the role of digital has never been so crucial.

That fact stands testament to how the retail industry has changed and continues to change.

PricewaterhouseCooper estimates that anywhere around 80% of consumers research their products online before purchasing them.

It is increasingly important that retailers understand who their online audiences are, what they want, and how best to engage with them online – social intelligence provides businesses with that ability.

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A strong start

Our latest report, Social Insights on the Retail Industry, analyzes the online performance of 43 major retail brands, shedding light on which retailers lead online, who their audiences are, and how they interact with consumers.

The figure below, taken from the report, helps explain how brands and audiences communicate on Twitter.

Brand Audience Activity Twitter Retail

Audiences account for 93% of the conversation surrounding retail brands.

While 4% of the conversation consists of projected tweets, a sizable 3% consists of replies to their audiences.

For reference, that’s far less than the telecommunication industry’s 19% but far more than the luxury fashion industry’s .02%.

Overall, the industry could be characterized as one that receives many @mentions and posts fairly often but does not generate a lot of replies or retweets from their audience – there isn’t that much conversation happening from their audiences.


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Timeliness and responsiveness

Retailers might take a lesson from PetCo, Debenhams, or Bed Bath & Beyond.

There are two major reasons that businesses fail to develop conversations with their followers: they never respond to them or they respond too slowly.

The following analysis exposes the response rate and response time for some of the largest retailers on Twitter.

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Bed Bath & Beyond responded to an impressive 31% of their incoming tweets, while Debenhams, commended for its consumer engagement, responded to just over 29%.

PetCo, though only responding to around 7% of its incoming tweets, had an average response time of 29 minutes.

Recognizing that consumers’ attention wanes quickly after tweeting to businesses, brands that are responding faster are dramatically more likely to start conversations than their sluggish rivals.


Understanding context

Yet an effective social media intelligence program should extend far beyond optimizing the way a business engages with online consumers – it should inform departments throughout the business.

The following figure exposes which product categories are most often discussed by retail pharmacies.

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For all three retail pharmacies, prescriptions were not the most discussed topic.

For CVS and Rite Aid, that title goes to beauty and personal care products, while Walgreens’ conversation was dominated by food, snacks and beverages.

By separating conversations into customizable categories, businesses can begin to explore how interest and tone varies across topics or products.

In this example, Rite Aid might notice it’s competitive strength in beauty and personal care products, examine what is driving that conversation, and build a campaign around those products.

Conversely, Rite Aid might decide it needs to invest more energy into marketing its food, snack and beverage offerings or pharmaceutical services.


Informing the business

Retailers are historically data-driven businesses.

While most retailers have created effective social programs to support their marketing efforts, too many shortsightedly believe that social media’s value stops there.

Already, many of the largest retailers are pioneering highly advanced social media intelligence programs that inform department lines throughout their businesses.



Retail Report

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