Big Brands Suffering Substantial Losses & Ignoring Social Insight

Kimberly Surico |
 03/29/21 |
4 min read

Big Brands Suffering Substantial Losses & Ignoring Social Insight
If one word sums up the past year of business, it’s change. Social insight clearly called for a pivot to ecommerce prior to COVID-19 and those who listened were able to adapt and succeed when the pandemic took hold. Others who stayed stuck on in-store sales and ignored their audience, weren’t able to pivot in time resulting in closed businesses across the globe.

We’ll deconstruct this a bit using market intelligence to examine the layers, including:

  • How to use social listening tools to understand consumers
  • Which brands didn’t listen – and the unsurprising results
  • Ways social insight helps brands get creative and power through a pandemic

And here are some relevant stats to keep in mind:

  • Ecommerce rose 32.4% during 2020
  • There were an estimated 25,000 permanent store closures in 2020
  • The eLearning market is expected to experience a $12.81 billion growth by 2024

Using Social Insight to Understand Audience Shifts

The pandemic has influenced the way we learn, how we interact with one another, and the way we shop. As things shut down, consumers turned to their mobile devices and computers for necessities previously purchased in-store. This resulted in an increase of 32.4% from 2019 in total ecommerce sales for 2020, estimated at $791.7 billion.

Online shopping isn’t a new conversation, of course. Beginning in September, consumer research reveals several spikes speaking to online shopping before the shutdowns, notably the day after Thanksgiving and then again in March. Conversation appears to drop after that point, but it’s really just leveling out, with ecommerce as the norm. The “potential impressions” metric (below) supports this, as the audience for online everythings explodes:


As we can see, social media analytics tools keep businesses from having to guess. Once you establish your baseline, market intelligence monitors for deviations and sends an alert.

When consumer research is left out of the story, its ends in blues . . . brand blues, that is.

Big Brand Blues

Forecasters are saying things will never go back to normal for shopping – not as we knew it, at least. Adapting to the online landscape has saved many brands this past year, but there was an estimated 25,000 permanent closures in 2020, which is enough to strike fear into any retailer’s heart. So, what did those who struggled have in common beyond shortsightedness when it came to ecommerce? It seems some may have felt too big to fail. We have five who were unfortunately proven wrong.

We’ll start with a tech junkie favorite, Fry’s Electronics. This big-box retailer with themed stores shut down operations. And it appears this was a long time coming. It seems they never put the stock needed into online sales and could not maneuver as needed when COVID-19 hit. This resulted in shutting down of all 31 stores throughout nine states. They blamed the changes in the retail industry.

And they aren’t alone in this. Famed wellness provider GNC closed 1,300 stores as a part of their restructuring plan in an effort to catch up. And Pier One liquidated their entire inventory, filing for bankruptcy. However, the chain’s assets were scooped up at auction by a Florida-based eCommerce venture and can now be found online.

It’s Darwin’s survival of the fittest in action. You either adapt or die. Chuck E Cheese, once Showbiz Pizza, knew all about rebranding and marketing, but even they were challenged by the new normal. As they have pivoted and re-opened, consumer sentiment analysis will be critical to stay on top of consumer emotions and prevent any further store closures.

Top sentiment drivers for this ‘pizza and play’ brand reveal lots of nostalgia and a definite chance to reimagine the brand for the next generation.


Chuck E Cheese has managed to emerge from bankruptcy and consumer research has the potential to put them back on solid animatronic track.

There’s definitely an opportunity to thrive though, if you know where to look.

Turning Challenges into Opportunities

Guitar Center was hit hard by the pandemic, ending up in bankruptcy court. No doubt if they get their sea legs again, they’ll be looking at more opportunities to broaden their online presence.  It would make sense, as online music lessons have been a big part of their image. If they don’t manage to pull it off, they’ll be leaving a huge hole in ecommerce for music lessons. As part of the e-learning echelon, instruction of any kind is doing amazingly well right now.

Online learning is expected to experience $12.81 billion growth by 2024, and virtual learning experiences inhabit a niche that many brands could fill. Additionally, we have Gen Z leading in everything online – making up 40% of US consumers, and they’re the self-taught generation, If you can teach it online, they’ll come – armed with their $143 billion spending power (US).

It’s a good time to expand your offerings and hedge your bets regardless. Having solid market share in your region/category, like Fry’s, doesn’t mean you’ll stay that way when the next plague befalls humanity. Track what consumers are saying, have that consumer sentiment analysis in your back pocket to benchmark against as you go, and you’ll be the equivalent of an early toilet paper shopper in March of last year (taking steps ahead of everyone else instead of playing catch up and paying hoarders per roll).

Reach out for a demo, and let consumer and market intelligence do the heavy lifting for you.

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