Third quarter earnings calls played like a broken record this week, as retail executives from several brands cited digital advancement and investment in social media as a means to staying afloat. For some, especially department stores and big-box retailers, their efforts are starting to show, according to a recent report.
In an analysis of social media engagement for mass retailers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the third quarter of 2017, companies like Macy’s and Target made significant gains in performance from the same time last year. The two were among the top ten most engaged retailers, alongside Ulta Beauty, Nordstrom, Sephora and Bergdorf Goodman.
The report, conducted by social media analytics company Shareablee, examined total shares, likes, clicks and views across the platforms of traditional retailers to get a sense for engagement rates. It also found that while social engagement across the retail industry as a whole dipped 2 percent compared to last year, big box and department stores experienced the opposite, with a 2 percent increase.
Instagram and Twitter proved to be a sweet spot: Department stores and big-box retailers experienced an 11 percent increase in Instagram engagement and a 22 percent increase on Twitter. Even more telling was engagement on video posts across all platforms for these brands, as media and retail companies alike continue to pivot to video. (Across all mass reatilers, there was a 97 percent increase on video engagement.)
“Video has been a pervasive trend in all categories, but in retail specifically, it can be used not only to enable behind-the-scenes access to your favorite brands, but also to provide immersive, rich content experiences,” said Shareablee CEO Tania Yuki. “In a content environment where most entertainment is being consumed as video, the consumer is learning to expect this format of brands, as well — and won’t engage without it in many cases.”
Yuki said Macy’s and Target are particularly noteworthy: The former crept up 12 spots to the eighth place ranking, while the latter shot up 23 spots to secure tenth place. Macy’s, in particular, saw a 66 percent increase in cross-platform engagement, buoyed by a 242 percent increase in Facebook posts, a 76 percent increase on Twitter and a 255 percent increase of video.
Yuki said much of this growth can be attributed to not just video, but also an increase in the number of posts across platforms and a shift to a storytelling marketing approach on social that mirrors the style of direct-to-consumer and e-commerce brands.
“Many retailers seem to be doubling down on community content — charitable causes, community outreach — rather than on content that also adds value to their shopping and research experience, which is a big part of what consumers want from social media.”
Additionally, Yuki said the data could be a sign of strong holiday sales this season, particularly as retailers seek to pair their social strategies with mobile commerce. (Mobile sales broke significant records last year; Black Friday saw the most mobile sales in a single day to date.)
“Retailers are now not just competing with other retailers on social media, but with every genre of content for the time of the consumer,” Yuike said. “As this competition for time intensifies, content needs to be both engaging and informative, adding value to each step of the consumer’s purchase pathway. It also must be a window into what makes brands tick. This transparency is new for the average retailer.”