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Dec 21, 2018
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Physical retailers win festive race for social media engagement - study

Dec 21, 2018

Pureplay e-tailers may be generally stronger than physical stores on the sales and profits front but over the festive period, bricks and mortar chains have beaten their pureplay rivals on one key measure - social media engagement. 


That’s according to a new study from Greenlight Digital with it saying talk of the the high street’s demise may be premature as Primark has taken the lead social media-wise and a raft of other store names have joined it on the list.

The value fashion brand’s Christmas posts have enjoyed the higest engagement levels with over 1.5 million interactions (likes, comments views, shares) on Instagram. And Converse and Superdrug have also done well, grabbing second and third places.

In fact, the only online retailer to get into the top 10 is fast fashion player Missguided.

Digital and commerce agency Greenlight looked at Christmas-specific post engagement across Twitter and Instagram over the past three months for the UK’s top retail brands.

And it said that with physical retailers “continuing to face negative news and pessimism when it comes to the UK high street, online engagement has become more important than ever to keep customers interested and loyal to brands and retailers. Being a high street-only brand hasn’t stopped Primark from establishing a cult social media following by creating high-engagement posts and working with authentic and beloved influencers such as @alexandmike or @three.little.thinkers.”

So who else is on the list? As mentioned, Primark, Converse and Superdrug are top, with big name Next in fourth place. Boots, which has been advertising heavily this festive season, manages fifth place with the only e-tailer, Missguided, making it to sixth place. 

Topshop is seventh with Liberty London eighth, which is perhaps surprising as it puts one of the best known mass-market national names right next to a low-key, high-end niche department store. 

It’s also perhaps surprising that heavily-under-pressure Debenhams has managed ninth place. Meanwhile Topman is 10th, that last name on the list suggesting that the combined Topshop and Topman score would have propelled the linked Arcadia-owned banners much higher up the list.

The research also showed that “quality over quantity counts for a lot when it comes to engagement on Instagram,” with Superdrug’s number three place in terms of volume of engagements coming from only two posts. And importantly, Greenlight found that high engagement is often linked to brands hosting competitions on their social channels “which will continue to drive high engagement numbers in the run up to Christmas.”
But it’s not only about competitions. “Primark’s success in captivating a social media audience roots in its overall strategy to create a festive aesthetic that is consistent throughout content,” the study said. “It is this consistency in messaging, tone, and visuals that help brands connect with audiences, and can be especially effective once weaved into a festive narrative.”
Hannah Kimuyu, Director of Paid Media & Audience Insights, at Greenlight, said: “High street retailers cannot become complacent with social media. It’s an immense online touchpoint with customers that builds levels of brand loyalty needed to help keep the UK high street alive.
“With high street retailers continuing to face negative news and pessimism when it comes to its survival, online engagement has become more important than ever to keep customers engaged. It’s easier than ever to use social media as a form of commerce thanks to the shopping function on Instagram."
And she added that the social data firms gather from social media is a valuable tool when it comes to understanding the behaviour, likes and interests of customers. "Gaining this information is essential in understanding core audiences and delivering tailored, relevant content – whether that be during the festive period or beyond”.

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