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‘Improvise, adapt and overcome’ is an oft-used Marine Corps mantra that is applicable to any brand navigating their way through the coronavirus pandemic. It certainly applies to the retail industry which had to scramble early to leverage their digital assets and bring relief to consumers in lockdown.

There have been winners and losers in retail this year, and though we’ve come a long way from the beginning of the pandemic, this is no time to ease up on your social media monitoring. Here we’ll look at a few competitive intelligence tips aimed at helping retail brands master their digital transformation.

And we’ll do that with a focus on:

  • The importance of continually monitoring the online conversation
  • Watching where the competition is changing
  • Exploring new consumer segments

Before we get started though, here are a few insights we uncovered on digital transformation in the retail industry.

  • A recent PwC survey found that 52% of companies intend to cut or delay investments due to COVID, while only 9% of respondents said digital transformation would be an area that they’d make cuts.
  • There were 22 billion retail website visits in June, up from 16 billion in January according to Statista.
  • Research from McKinsey suggests that only 16% of executives feel that their digital transformation strategies are successful.

Sizing Up Online Intel

Using market research to keep tabs on the competition is a must for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of brands operating in your market. Additionally, it serves to better understand your own brand health in relation to others and uncovers first mover opportunities.

The news around retail this year is littered with store closures, employee furloughs and bankruptcies. Who knows what the rest of the year may bring, but you’ll want a finger on the pulse of the retail conversation as you continue to implement your digital transformation strategy.

An analysis of major retailers in relation to COVID reveals a who’s-who of brands; many of which are heavily invested in their digital component.

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Digital transformation is the difference this year between success and what could have been. It’s important that your competitive intelligence informs you on who’s getting things right, and who isn’t.

A simple sentiment summary of relevant brands is a great place to gain insights on top brands from both sides of the sentiment spectrum.

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There’s a lot of insights to be gained here as even top brands have hurdles to overcome. For instance, Macy’s is currently lobbying regulators against having to shutter its doors in light of a potential wave of fresh lockdown measures. Further exploration into the health of their digital transformation could be telling as the story unfolds and offer insights on what they may be doing right – or what they got wrong.

Competition is Changing

Change is the only constant in the business world. The fact that 88% of Fortune 500 companies from 1955 are no longer with us today attests to that. And failure to adapt was the downfall of many.

That said, it’s inevitable with the rapid progression of eCommerce this year that competition is going to morph. There has been a slew of brands that have struggled this year in getting out ahead of the digital transformation for one reason or another. And as always, as one falls, one or more will step in to fill the vacuum.

And it’s a great idea to keep the scope of your competitive intelligence broad as the dominoes continue to fall worldwide. The ongoing march into the digital realm throughout the pandemic has left casualties across the globe.

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In a recent turn of events, British retail giant Arcadia Group was just announced to be entering into bankruptcy protection. Arcadia, the owner of such fashion brands as Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge, was buffeted by store closures during the pandemic and failed to adequately position itself within the changing tides of retail.

CNBC quoted Nina Marston, the fashion and luxury analyst at Euromonitor International, saying, “Arcadia has suffered against these emerging players because the company was slow to develop an innovative and user-friendly online offering as well as a strong brand narrative and social media presence.”

And just who are these emerging players? Well, they’re not the big three. Reuter’s writes saying, “[Arcadia’s] brands were squeezed between the likes of Inditex’s Zara, H&M, and Primark and online-only players ASOS and Boohoo.”

It goes to show that the spoils of business go to the agile, so your competitive intelligence should keep you keen on fast-moving brands that could be potential disruptors.

New Consumer Segments to Explore

To ensure that your brand is one of those fast movers, it’s critical that your social media monitoring is tuned into the heartbeat of the consumer. And a sure-fire way to do that is by aiming your market research directly at their interests.

Sorting for interests under the demographics tab in the NetBase product reveals a host of sub-interests from social media users to explore. Brands will do well to dig through these to find needs and wants that are going unfulfilled or underserved by their competitors.

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Each of the topic clusters are clickable and offer a summary rundown of relevant posts, such as the one seen here for green living.

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And it also contains a lengthy list of social media soundbites to explore.

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As far as niche interests are concerned, you’ll find both posts from everyday users and brands that are already speaking into the niche. So, it’s a great way to inform both your consumer and competitive intelligence at the same time.

At the end of the day, there’s still a lot of market movement to be done as the global digital transformation steams ahead. One thing that’s crucial for brands to keep in mind is that agility is key to maintaining relevancy in this race.

Wherever your brand happens to be in the mix, an accurate assessment of those running alongside you is critical for success. Be sure to reach out for a personalized demo and we’ll get you dialed into the competitive intelligence that lays the foundation for a successful digital transformation.

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