Old Navy comps were up in October.


As the back-to-school shopping season begins to peak, the latest social media buzz puts Forever 21, H&M and Old Navy as the most talked-about brands. And in terms of the volume of social media chatter, mass market retailers also performed well.

But the research also revealed the growing importance of off-line conversations.

According to the Engagement Labs’ TotalSocial Rankings, which measures social media and word of mouth conversations, retail brands Wal-Mart and Target “performed better in terms of volume — which measures how much conversation a particular brand is getting online and off-line — compared to the teen retail brands.”

“However, teen retailers outdo the others in the category with strong off-line sentiment scores, which demonstrates that while consumers may be talking about other retailers more, they are talking about teen retailers more positively,” researchers at the firm said adding that off-line sentiment is “a powerful driver of business outcomes.”

Ed Keller, chief executive officer of Engagement Labs, said “while many marketers assume that the younger generation tends to spend most of their time online, we found that retailers geared toward teenage consumers perform better in off-line conversations than on social media.”

Keller noted that for companies 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 off-line.”

“These teen retailers have an opportunity to increase sales and improve its online performance by developing strategies and campaigns that encourage social media conversations,” he added.

Regarding the social measures, Old Navy scored highest among the teen retailers “due to its strong off-line brand sharing scores, which is the amount of face-to-face conversations in which people are talking about a brand’s marketing or advertising,” authors of the report noted.

“The retailer, which markets itself as providing fashion for the whole family, also has above-average off-line sentiment scores, demonstrating that consumers are talking positively about the company’s marketing efforts,” the firm said.

Engagement Labs said Old Navy’s shift from celebrity marketing to its latest “Hi, Fashion” campaign is resonating better with consumers.

Regarding Forever 21, the retailer scores high with off-line and online social volume, however it “falls behind with below-average sentiment scores — demonstrating that the retailer is able to generate a lot of conversations, but they aren’t all positive.”

The researchers said that H&M “leads the pack with a strong off-line sentiment score.” The firm said the fast-fashion brand’s recent shift to focus its marketing efforts on sustainability and ethical apparel is one that is clearly resonating with the younger demographic, resulting in positive face-to-face conversations.”

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