Comparing retail’s social media performance during lockdown

With UK retail gradually re-opening, Maybe* has compared the social media data of the top 100 UK retailers in terms of their social media output. We’ve also taken a deep dive into the social media output and brand sentiment of several of the UK’s retailers - Primark, Selfridges, Debenhams, Sports Direct, Topshop, Ikea and Zara to understand how their lockdown activity may impact the rate at which customers return through their doors.

What has the retail industry been posting?

Using Maybe* we've been looking at three different sets of data. Firstly, what the brands above have been saying on social media and how they've been engaging their audience. Secondly, we've been looking at what's being said about these brand, and finally at the sentiment and customer attitudes towards those brands.

The data used is from March 1 to June 14, so includes all of lockdown right up until before the stores began opening on June 15th.

Debenhams, Marks and Spencers, Ikea, Zara and Topshop have all increased the amount of social media content that they've been posting. Despite the fact that they've not been able to trade in store, Primark has seen a decrease in the amount of posts, but engagement with their content has increased by over 170%.

The Maybe* See What Works Report detailing the posts created by Primark and the engagement with them.

M&S engagement increases by 3300%

But it's the data around Marks and Spencer that is the most interesting. Though it has only marginally increased its posts, its engagement has skyrocketed by 3300% and it has achieved almost 1.1 million engagements. Bingo! 

M&S has done this predominantly by talking about its food offering, rather than focusing on fashion. The business has also read the mood of the time by incorporating wellness content around meditation, mindfulness and exercise.

The Maybe* See What Works report showing the posts created by Marks & Spencer and the engagement with them.


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Mindfulness expert Ali @heal_yourself_happy joins us this evening with a guided meditation to relax the mind and body in just 10 minutes.

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What‘s being posted about retail?

During lockdown only Sports Direct, Primark and M&S have seen an increase in the amount of conversation about them, and then further engagement with those conversations about them. Both of the two department stores profiled, Selfridges and Debenhams saw a decline in content about them. There was a 55% drop off in conversation about Selfridges and a 85% drop off in the conversation about Debenhams.

The Maybe* See What Works Report detailing the posts created about Debenhams and Selfridges and the engagement with them.

Primark is a great example of a brand that, despite not being able to trade, has seen a spike in public interest about them with social media conversations about them up by nearly 200%. The engagement with those conversations about them has jumped up by a staggering 87%.

Looking at April 1st where there were over 2,000 conversations created about Primark. The fashion retailer sees not only conversations about its fashion items, but a large proportion of content created about its beauty line.

The Maybe* See What Works report detailing the posts created about Primark and the engagement with them.

How do customers feel about the brands?

When we examine the sentiment about the two department stores, Selfridges and Debenhams over this period, they both receive a very low volume of conversation about them compared with Primark and Marks and Spencer. Primark get on average 500 conversations created about them each day, whereas for Debenhams over the same period its maximum was 12 conversations per day.

It's worth noting though that when Debenhams and Selfridges  have content created about them, it is positive. While Selfridges may be seen as the leader in the department store space in terms of experience, the volume of conversation about it over lockdown is really only double that of Debenhams, again nowhere near the same league as Primark. Without the physical experience Selfridges offer in store, conversation about it has failed to cut through.

Key takeaway

During lockdown some brands have thrived by keeping in touch with their audiences, others have stepped up, and some have been surprisingly poor, perhaps struggling to react to the retail environment they found themselves thrust into by COVID-19. Whether this will be reflected in trade and brand sentiment when retail reopens remains to be seen. If retail re-opening day (June 15th) is anything to go by, the 4.30am queues outside Primark up and down the country suggest they're reaping the rewards of the effort they put in during lockdown.

Maybe* is a collaborative social media management platform that provides engagement tools, actionable insights, reports and access to training that enables organisations to make social media work for them. 

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