The top retail and apparel ‘conversation starters’ are…

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

When shoppers talk about brands, they usually do it offline.

That’s according to a study by Engagement Labs that measured the performance of 60 brands with respect to social media and word of mouth conversations. Amazon came out on top in the retail and apparel category, followed by Nike and Nordstrom.

Amazon’s top score 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. It was also the only online retailer in the top 10 ranking.

The retail and apparel brands making up the remaining top spots in the “TotalSocial Rankings” study are Victoria’s Secret, Adidas, Under Armour, Ulta Beauty, Costco, Forever 21 and Ikea.

“Reflecting one of the biggest trends in the category, athleisure brands make a strong showing in the retail and apparel ranking with three of the top six TotalSocial positions held by Nike, Adidas and Under Armour,” said Ed Keller, CEO of Engagement Labs.

Despite the reputation of these brand powerhouses, one major retailer is notably missing from the top performers list: Walmart. But it isn’t because it fails to drive a large volume of consumer conversations.

In fact, Walmart is considered the most talked-about retail and apparel brand offline and has the third-highest online volume score. Yet, the brand struggles with low sentiment scores in terms of both online and offline conversations, data revealed.

In addition, Walmart also fails to drive much consumer conversation surrounding its overall marketing efforts, or what Engagement Labs calls “brand sharing.” These areas of deficiency offset Walmart’s strong volume scores, causing it to fall out of the top 10, as well as the top 20 ranking out of more than 60 brands measured.

Meanwhile, Nordstrom — which prides itself on reputable customer service and its in-store experience — is the only brand that not only has a stronger online score than offline, but tops the online score tops the category. Additionally, both Nordstrom’s online volume and online sentiment scores are stronger as compared to its offline scores.

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.

Meanwhile, Costco has the largest gap among the top 10 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, a handful of brands make the online top 10, but are prevented from making the overall top 10 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, or brands that 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.


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