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Sprout Social Analyzes Emerging Trends Impacting Retailers This Holiday Shopping Season

New industry and social media conversation data offers brands and retailers a clear sightline into seasonal success

Social media and retail are two rapidly evolving and increasingly intertwined industries, each with a shared goal of trying to reach consumers. Sprout Social, an industry-leading provider of cloud-based social media management software, released new insights on the most disruptive trends affecting retailers and brands this holiday season. Based on proprietary social media conversation data, the analysis provides guidance for brands looking to leverage social media to make the most of the peak retail season.

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The in-store experience is back, but it’s not what you expect
The pandemic further accelerated the shift to online shopping, and retailers must reimagine their in-store experience to both cater to those shifts and drive in-person experiences. Pop-ups like Nordstrom’s Pop-In@Nordstrom shops or smaller format stores like Bloomingdale’s new “Bloomie’s” concept not only create immediacy and exclusivity for the in-person experience, they spur online conversation and extend the retailer’s reach. Consumers show increased interest in these experiences, with more than 1.26 million Twitter conversations related to pop-up stores since June 1*, a 42% uptick in conversations compared to the first half of 2021, according to Sprout Social listening data.

As important as it is to connect with consumers in person, brands that focus on how physical and digital storefronts complement each other will also see increased returns. According to Sprout Social’s 2021 Index, after following a brand on social media, 86% of consumers will visit their physical retail store and 90% will buy from them.

“While consumers become more comfortable with going back to stores, retailers are getting more creative in how they deliver relevant and personalized experiences to keep shoppers excited and coming back,” said Jamie Gilpin, CMO, Sprout Social. “But retailers won’t be effective without a complementary online and social strategy. The bottom line is that social gets shoppers in the “door”, whether in-person or online, and provides another channel for retailers to engage with audiences and convert them into customers.”

Social commerce is the next frontier in e-commerce
Social media is becoming the epicenter of the entire customer experience, from initial discovery to final purchase. To keep up with the demand of holiday shoppers, brands will optimize their social platforms to be both their new storefront and cash register.

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In fact, 93% of executives believe businesses are increasingly moving e-commerce strategies to social media and 79% expect to use social media to sell products and services over the next three years, according to research from Sprout Social and The Harris Poll. This aligns with changing consumer habits, as more than one in three consumers (36%) have already used social media to purchase products or services from brands.

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“Social commerce has exploded recently, driven by major social media networks like TikTok, Pinterest and Facebook rolling out new commerce features and integrations in the past year,” said Gilpin. “Our data proves this trend isn’t slowing down anytime soon, in fact, it’s only expected to increase more this year. Social commerce offers retailers and brands the opportunity to compete for growing e-commerce sales while building lasting customer relationships, setting them up for not only a successful holiday shopping season, but a successful year ahead.”

Younger consumers are setting the agenda for retail brands’ offerings
With a spending power of $143 billion that is only expected to rise, Millennials and Gen Z hold increasing influence on the retail market and are shaping the latest trends, evident by the growing second-hand shopping market, which is projected to reach $77 billion by 2025. Social media conversation data from Sprout Social about second-hand clothing and thrift shopping supports this notion, marked by a 42% increase in conversations since September 12 compared to the previous six-week period**.

In response to the resurgence of these secondhand shopping trends driven by up-and-coming generations, retail brands like Madewell and Urban Outfitters are adapting their offerings. For example, Urban Outfitters recently launched its own resale marketplace called Nuuly Thrift. In the week following its launch, Twitter conversations mentioning the retailer increased by 67%, with 931% more engagements than the previous week and a 10% boost in positive sentiment, according to new social media conversation analysis from Sprout Social***.

“The rise in popularity of small-scale pop-up shops and second-hand shopping are just a few examples of the domino effect social media has on demand for products or shifts in shopping trends,” said Gilpin. “What is even more compelling is how social has evolved into a powerful source for business intelligence. Social data offers brands a window into consumer behavior and sentiment, and can help them determine how to engage in viral conversations or maximize on trends before they crest. Retailers who leverage social data to understand these cultural and generational nuances will venture into the holiday season with a strong competitive advantage.”

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