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“While the novelty of going into a store and touching a dress in person will never go away, the convenience of online shopping can’t be beat.” So says fashion designer Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss, and there’s truth to that idea –but online shopping is far from taking over its brick and mortar competitors.

Ecommerce sales doubled in the past ten years, but online sales only account for 13% of retail sales overall. What does this mean for retail brands as they set their intentions for 2019? Let’s look at social sentiment and find out!

Online Isn’t Going Away

First things first: that 13% of retail sales stillamounts to $453.5 billion in U.S. online retail sales, according to U.S. CommerceDepartment estimates in 2017. That’s money no brand is going to leave on thetable.

Though ecommerce hasn’t overtaken everything just yet, it’s an important part of your brand’s customer experience. Therefore, you’ve got to understand consumer sentimentaround this topic – otherwise you leave the door open for competitors to gain afoothold as this trend continues gathering steam.

And, of course, sorting this out during the biggest
shopping period of the year couldn’t hurt!

Holiday Shopping Pain Points

When we look at NetBase Pro to gather insights about Christmas shopping, holiday shopping, and online shopping, it’s clear Net Sentiment is decidedly split:

When we narrow the search parameters to online shopping alone, sentiment drops quite a bit:

The number of posts is smaller, as expected, but a small, passionate audience can throw a wrench into your brand’s works easily enough.

Looking at the Sentiment Attributes we see the most
prominent term is “card” – which is a partly sarcastic reference to the
annoyance of having to get up and get one’s credit card when shopping online.

But it’s worth taking seriously as other issues are
part of this conversation – like refunds being more of a hassle than they
should, site security, and having to enter payment information to new shopping
sites.

And, of course, looking at Behaviors we see there are calls to stop or avoid online shopping, giving consumers pause:

These behaviors are tied to everything from Amazon’s business practices, to online shopping taxes in different parts of the world, and simple FOMO related to festive shopping experiences.

But there are advantages to online shopping as well –
and those who believe in-store will always win must pay attention to sentiment
here.

These include the sheer variety of product available,and the benefits of not having to confront other shoppers as you fight for the last designer handbag, popular toy, etc.

And, of course, there is the ability to find the priceyou want with a few simple clicks. This consumer strategy is aided by apps,like camelcamelcamel,that let you track prices online to show you whether you’re paying too much forthat supposedly-on-sale item you’re about to purchase.

As we saw in our initial Sentiment Attributes word cloud above, with terms like “holiday shopping stress,” “drain sanity,” and“give anxiety,” the holiday shopping experience is not typically a fun one.Consumers want anything that makes it easier and less expensive, so brands must focus on making it so.

Where Is Your Target Audience?You have to know where to find your audience, of course. Most of the online shopping – and overall holiday/Christmas shopping –conversation is happening on Twitter and Instagram, followed by Tumblr and YouTube. So if you’re focused on Facebook, for example, you’re not getting the best information – unless you have a specific audience segment interacting there.

In the larger world, global brands should know the English-language conversation is happening in the U.S., U.K, Canada, Australia,India, and Ireland, etc. If you apply Natural Language Processing (NLP) tools to each regional specifically, and remove the English filter, you’ll have that much more to work with.

And what about popular media? This is a great place to find influential content – and, in this case, influencers to boot.

Instagram is top dog here, with nearly all the top Popular Media posts featuring Instagram influencers shouting out specific products to buy this holiday season. What’s behind the engagement – the product, or the person sharing it? That’s always something for brands to consider as they assess their social analytics, and whether an influencer is worth approaching.

What matters is exploring social sentiment with
accurate, trusted tools (like ours) to know for certain what your customers and
larger audience want. That’s the only way you will be able to provide it – and
earn consumer trust and loyalty besides.

That makes for a happy holiday indeed.

Have
you seen our sentiment analysis tools in action? Get in touch with
us and we’ll give you a tour!