- Retailers have built a strong connection with consumers on social media so far in 2020, potentially making the channel more significant for marketers during the back-to-school shopping season. Retailers saw a 40% jump in engagement in the first day they posted content to social media in Q2 from a year earlier, per a report that social media marketing firm Sprout Social shared with Mobile Marketer.
- Retailers also saw a 72% increase in the average number of daily inbound messages in Q2 from a year earlier as the coronavirus pandemic led more consumers to shop from home while stores were closed during lockdowns. Mid-market retailers experienced an 88% increase in inbound messages during the comparable periods, per the report. Retailers have also been more active, sharing 104% more pins on Pinterest during the first half of 2020 and reposting 84% more Pins, per Sprout.
- Personal safety is a key concern for consumers as they worry about whether schools will reopen in the fall. The volume of social media posts that included keywords "safe" or "safety" surpassed 40,000 from Jan. 1 to June 30, and received more than 596,000 engagements, per Sprout Social's social listening analysis.
Social media marketing will be more significant for brands and retailers during the back-to-school shopping season, which is the second-most important period for marketers after the holidays and is typically when retailers are most active on social, per Sprout Social. With the coronavirus pandemic expected to have a significant effect on shopping behavior during back-to-school, marketers need to prepare their social media strategies to connect with consumers, the company recommends.
This year's jump in engagement and messages during Q2 indicates that consumers are using social media to find content from retailers, making it more that they prepare their social media strategies for what is typically a busy period, Sprout Social recommends.
Concerns about personal safety and social distancing are key topics that retailers need to address during the back-to-school shopping season. Those worries not only will affect whether people shop online or in stores, but also will sway what kinds of products they buy. Retailers need to be ready to respond quickly to consumers who engage with them on social media, with shoppers having higher expectations of brands than in the past. Almost half (45%) of consumers will unfollow a brand's social media account because of irrelevant content, while 49% will unfollow a brand because of poor customer service, per the Sprout Social Index. The survey results indicate that marketers need to be attuned to their customers on social media to stay relevant.
Marketers also need to consider partnerships with influencers and giving campaigns to help boost engagement with consumers, Sprout Social recommends. It pointed to a partnership that discount chain Walmart formed last year with NBA star LeBron James to give a child a back-to-school shopping spree. Marketers don't need to hire a major celebrity for their campaigns, but can instead collaborate with influencers who are accessible and relatable, and can create content remotely, per the report.
Sprout's report comes as back-to-school advertising activity has fallen 50% in July from a year earlier amid the uncertainty about whether kids will be able to return to school, per a study from researcher Numberator cited by Marketing Dive, a sister publication to Mobile Marketer. While the pandemic has disrupted the operations of retailers, some of whom have had to close down their stores again in regions where COVID-19 cases are rising, there are signs that people will spend heavily during the back-to-school season. With the growth in distance learning, families are expected to spend more on computer equipment, driving a 26% surge in back-to-school spending to a record $101.6 billion this year, the National Retail Federation estimated.