Despite the Online Focus, Your Customers Are Talking About You IRL
In a new, first-of-its-kind analysis of combined offline and online consumer conversations, Engagement Labs released its TotalSocial® rankings on the top performing retail and apparel brands in the U.S. The rankings are based on Engagement Labs' proprietary TotalSocial data, which continuously measures the most important drivers of brand performance with respect to social media and word of mouth conversations. Although it might seem that consumer shopping choices are greatly influenced by the digital world (influencers, fashion blogs, etc.), the analysis finds that out of more than 60 brands measured, conversations about retail and apparel brands still mostly happen offline, in face-to-face conversations, as opposed to online conversations taking place via social media. In fact, the tone or sentiment of a face-to-face conversation about a given retail or apparel brand is much more likely to be positive than if a consumer goes online. According to Engagement Labs' data, Amazon is the clear TotalSocial leader in the retail and apparel category and is also a well-established Conversation Commander, which is defined as a brand that performs above average both offline and online. Amazon's top rank is driven by its extremely strong online and offline volume scores, strong offline sentiment and its high online brand sharing performance, which is the sharing of branded content by consumers on social media. One major retailer that is notably missing from the top performers list is Walmart, despite driving a large volume of consumer conversations. Although Walmart is the most talked-about retail and apparel brand offline and has the third-highest online volume score, the brand struggles with low sentiment scores in terms of both online and offline conversations. In addition, the brand also fails to drive much consumer conversation surrounding its overall marketing efforts, or what Engagement Labs calls Brand Sharing. Taken together, these areas of deficiency offset its strong volume scores which cause it to fall out of the top ten as well as the top 20 ranking out of more than 60 brands measured. "Reflecting one of the biggest trends in the category, athleisure brands make a strong showing in the retail and apparel ranker with three of the top six TotalSocial positions, held by NIKE, adidas and Under Armour," says Ed Keller, CEO of Engagement Labs. "We know that TotalSocial scores are predictive of future sales, and this strong performance by these athleisure brands helps to explain the double-digit growth for this sector when the rest of the apparel category is seeing very low growth. We will keep a careful eye on the trends, but from what we have seen over the past year, there is plenty of reason to believe that analysts' projections for continued growth ahead are on the mark." Engagement Labs found that Nordstrom is a stand-out brand in the ranking as it is the only one with a stronger online score than offline. In fact, its online score tops the category. Additionally, both Nordstrom's online volume and online sentiment scores are stronger as compared to its offline scores. As a brand that prides itself on reputable customer service and its in-store experience, Nordstrom's TotalSocial scores reveal how that experience is making its way into online conversations as well. The strong online performance is a reflection of a strategy designed to appeal to Millennials, which integrates digital and cross-channel shopping and is helping to drive positive sales growth for Nordstrom at a time when other retailers are struggling and closing stores. In contrast to Nordstrom, Costco has the largest gap among the top ten in favor of offline conversations versus online. Brands such as Old Navy, Home Depot, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond make the top of the list in terms of their offline scores, but are held back by lower online scores, which preclude them from making the TotalSocial top 10. Additionally, as the inverse to this trend, a handful of brands make the online top ten, but are prevented from making the overall top ten rankings due to lower offline performance -- including H&M, Best Buy, NIKE's Air Jordan and Kohl's. Engagement Labs defines these brands -- which perform considerably better offline than online, or vice versa -- as Social Misfits, emphasizing that these brands can drive better consumer engagement and sales by learning the lessons of what drives strong performance in one channel and applying those lessons to the other.