‘Social media listening’ is helping larger retailers deliver alluring products to shoppers. Here’s what you need to know

From PrettyLittleThing to Radley London, major fashion brands are navigating their way through the coronavirus crisis by socially listening to shoppers

By Michalis Michael, CEO for customer insights specialist DigitalMR

With the UK potentially facing more weeks in lockdown, the retail sector is continuing to take a hit. Newly emerged data shows retail sales fell at their fastest rate on record in March, with analysts warning that worse is yet to come.

How fashion retailers and brands respond to these unprecedented times will ultimately determine whether they sink or stay afloat. Some may even emerge from the pandemic with a new lease of life, having turned a negative into a positive and capitalised on the unusual circumstances. The key is to gain a competitive advantage by gathering insights on consumer behaviour that can be acted on quickly.

“Also known as ‘social intelligence’, social media listening and analytics track online mentions and conversations related to your brand and competitors”

The lockdown consumer

The lockdown has forced most people to stay indoors – and this has already caused major changes to consumer behaviour. Non-essential physical shops, including fashion boutiques and salons, are closed while distribution is limited across the world.

Consequently, shoppers are no longer concerned about ordering the latest fashion for their next venture out. Instead, they want the nicest loungewear they can wear at home and solutions to tackle their unattended hair. This change of behaviour needn’t put the fear into companies whose  customers are taking matters into their own hands. It’s an opportunity to take advantage of.

Feel the noise

Every day, billions of people talk on social media about where they’ve been, what they’ve bought and their opinions about products. This information is a gold mine for consumer-facing industries, but according to research few companies have acted on this valuable data.

Many companies have traditionally depended on surveys and focus groups to assess what consumers are saying about their products and services. However, the lockdown means these opportunities are limited. This is why socially listening to shoppers online is important for brands to gather insight that will inform their lockdown strategies.

What is social listening?

Also known as ‘social intelligence’, social media listening and analytics track online mentions and conversations related to your brand and competitors. Using this can help you understand what’s going right or wrong, what’s important to customers and how you can improve. Armed with this information, you can create an action plan. This could mean anything from crafting a new social media campaign to offering an entirely different service. It could help you redesign your whole approach or simply stay close to your customers.

Social intelligence is about more than social media monitoring and it’s crucial to understand this. Most brands will already be using simple social media monitoring tools primarily designed for PR or customer care. However, they need to take this further and pay close attention to finding a signal in the noise.

With the use of accurate social listening, brands can access conversation drivers annotated with sentiment and use this to inform vital decision making.

Some brands are already getting it right

We’ve already seen some brands reassessing their digital marketing strategies and communicating with consumers in new ways.

These include online fashion giants like PrettyLittleThing and Boohoo, which have created dedicated ‘Stay Home’ categories on their websites. Here they display everything from pyjamas and slippers to gym wear, face masks and skincare. This is perfect for their audiences who want to look and feel their best – despite being stuck inside.

Additionally, leading activewear brand Gymshark has focused its efforts on providing at-home workout videos led by its popular ambassadors. Meanwhile, at home beauty services provider blow LTD is sharing video tutorials and Radley London is offering flexible payment options.

Social media ‘chatter’ among consumers is informing many of these moves. Such strategic changes will put these brands in good stead, increasing loyalty, demonstrating consumer empathy and catering for changing needs.

As the saying goes, ‘he who shouts the loudest will be heard first’. Put simply, the brands that respond well to changing consumer behaviour will be less adversely affected. By socially listening to shoppers and responding to changing demand, brands can develop a loyal following that lasts a lifetime.

Michalis Michael is CEO of DigitalMR

Photo by Kate Torline on Unsplash