Teen retailers, although marketing to a digitally savvy crowd, get more consumers talking about their brand offline (in face-to-face conversations) than on social media platforms, according to a study by Engagement Labs that was emailed to Retail Dive.
Old Navy, H&M, Forever 21, Hollister, American Eagle Outfitters, Hot Topic, Express, Abercrombie & Fitch, rue21 and Aeropostale were the top ten teen retailers in Engagement Labs’ TotalSocial rankings. The rankings rate retailers based on the volume of online and offline conversations they generate, as well as their "offline sentiment score," which measures how positive or negative those conversations are.
Interestingly, the study found that big box retailers like Target and Walmart generated more conversations about themselves, but teen retailers are being talked about more positively.
Seeing as the youngest two consumer groups — millennials and Gen Z — are influenced most by social media, with 57% of millennials and 80% of Gen Z making social media-influenced purchases, the news that teen retailers aren’t making a big splash with consumers online is disconcerting, to say the least.
Even the top teen retailer on TotalSocial’s ranking, Old Navy, reached that spot based on the number of face-to-face conversations consumers are having about its brand, as well as its high offline sentiment score, and not how the retailer is doing on social media. That being said, Engagement Labs ranked both Forever 21 and H&M as "conversation commanders," meaning both retailers have above-average scores online and off.
Ed Keller, CEO of Engagement Labs, says that social nevertheless represents a huge growth opportunity for teen retailers.
"By having a holistic view and identifying the areas that need improvement, brands will be able to connect with consumers and remain part of their conversations, both online and offline," Keller says. "These teen retailers have an opportunity to increase sales and improve its online performance by developing strategies and campaigns that encourage social media conversations."
Retailers would do well to reach out to consumers on mobile platforms, especially considering that Gen Z converts twice as much on mobile than any other generation, and that generation actually wants more brand interaction. Importantly, a recent study by the IBM Institute of Business Value and the NRF found that 55% of Gen Zers choose brands that are eco-friendly and socially responsible, demonstrating the importance of a brand's message.
Indeed, the high offline sentiment scores that Engagement Labs measured in some of these teen retailers — especially Old Navy and H&M — are thought to derive from campaigns with bold messages. The study suggests that Old Navy’s "Hi, Fashion" campaign and H&M’s focus on sustainability and ethical apparel might be drivers of the positive sentiments.
If that’s true, then more mobile reach-out could be an opportunity for these retailers. You don’t have to look much further than REI’s #OptOutside campaign and Patagonia’s decision to donate its Black Friday profits to see how much both social media and strong brand messaging can influence customer loyalty.