Retail’s road to recovery

by Tom Kaneshige. There are signs of a retail recovery propped up by social commerce, the world over.

by Tom Kaneshige. Traditional retailers were hit hard by the pandemic. Physical stores and malls became ghost towns. Newfangled distribution models, such as buying online with curbside pickup, sprang up overnight. Pity the retailer serving up a poor digital customer experience or who couldn’t adapt fast enough to these new models. But now there are signs of a retail recovery propped up by social commerce.

Retail sales this spring exploded — 18.3% growth over May 2020 — led by sporting goods, clothing and food and beverages. Sales are continuing to ride the tailwinds of stimulus checks and vaccinations. Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are making strides in digital customer experience, including reaching customers on social media platforms. One of the biggest retail trends this year is social commerce, where users make purchases from within apps, such as Instagram and Facebook. “This is a game changer as it dramatically shortens and simplifies the funnel for many e-commerce brands,” says BrandTotal in a report on retail. “And now, using the tools at their disposal, including ‘dark’ or highly targeted campaigns, retailers have the opportunity to make this comeback one for the ages.” (Related: Download BrandTotal’s Retail Report “The Greatest Comeback Ever?”)

BrandTotal, a strategic marketing partner with the CMO Council, found that Target captured almost a quarter of social’s share of voice among the brands in the report. Nike doubled its nearest competitor Adidas in customer engagement, thanks to striking visuals and daring authenticity in its social ads. A single Mother’s Day post generated more than a million engagements for the brand. (Check out Nike’s Mother’s Day campaign.)

Social channels

Among social media channels, YouTube and Instagram where the most common. These channels make the most sense for retailers, given that they distribute beautiful videos and stunning images. Brands that used YouTube more than any other platform include ALDI, Burberry, FarFetch and Kroger. Top Instagram users include Adidas, Costco, Dollar Tree, Gap and Nordstrom. The majority of brand posts are paid dark posts, meaning the posts are highly targeted and not viewable by the general public. There’s no question that retailers are embracing personalization through tailored messages aimed at specific audiences. (BrandTotal’s platform has the ability to view and analyse ‘dark’ paid social media activity.)

The kind of messaging varies, too. “A more luxury brand like Burberry might stay away from overtly sleazy messaging — only 6% of their paid campaigns had a conversation goal,” BrandTotal says. “A brand like Walmart, however, is not constrained by this, and almost half of their paid campaigns are focused on conversations.”

While traditional retailers are doing a better job at using social media, it isn’t all sweetness and light. Social media is a two-way street, and at times negative sentiment creeps into the conversation. For instance, Walgreens faced negative comments after its social campaign offering vaccinations at physical stores didn’t match up with the proper scheduling of doses. It’s important for retailers to coordinate social media campaigns with in-store operations in order to avoid, or at least minimise, negative sentiment. “A key point here is to ensure that social media campaigns don’t send the wrong message or set expectations too high,” BrandTotal says.


Main image credit: Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels.



Tom Kaneshige is the chief content officer at the global CMO Council (Chief Marketing Officers Council). He creates all forms of digital thought leadership content that helps growth and revenue officers, line of business leaders, and chief marketers succeed in their rapidly evolving roles. Retailing Africa is a media partner to the CMO Council.



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