UK retailers make a splash on Twitter as Christmas nears

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

With Christmas gift shopping now in full flow in the UK we’ve taken a look at how some of the UK’s largest retail brands are using Twitter this year.

The combination of Twitter and retail is a story of significant growth in 2013. Mentions of eight of the UK’s biggest retailers on Twitter are up by around 45% year-on-year, according to data from Topsy.

Consumers are increasingly turning to Twitter during all stages of their shopping, from planning and research to buying. This trend was recently highlighted in US research carried out by DB5. It found that as many as 55% of users like to discuss gift ideas on Twitter, and 64% say they have bought a product because of what they’ve seen on Twitter.

Furthermore, when it comes to the big post-Thanksgiving shopping days in the US, ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’, additional DB5 research found that the vast majority of US Twitter users shop on these days, and that Tweets are an important resource to them. With so many mentions of ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’, one could hardly miss the conversation on Twitter over the weekend.

While we don’t strictly have these same shopping days in the UK, they are starting to make their presence felt. For example @Asda launched a major ‘Black Friday’ sale this year and sparked a lot of interest:

And research from industry body IMRG and consultants Capgemini confirmed that this weekend just gone marked the busiest UK shopping days of the year.

In the UK, we’ve already seen many of the biggest retailers launch multi-million-pound television advertising campaigns in November and support them with innovative Twitter activity.

Leading the Christmas charge among the UK’s retailers has been @Johnlewisretail. The brand’s hotly-anticipated 2013 ad, which appeared first online with the hashtag #bearandhare, saw mentions of its @username during the week of its launch increase by more than 14 times, year-on-year, as well as 29,000 mentions of the dedicated hashtag #bearandhare, according to Topsy.

However, other retailers including @Debenhams (#wishesmadefabulous), @Tesco, @HarveyNichols (#SpentItOnMyself), @Argos_Online (#Giftforsanta) @marksandspencer (#magicandsparkle) @Morrisons (#ItsChristmas) and @sainsburys (#ChristmasInaDay), have also made an impact on Twitter users and have seen thousands of mentions and retweets of their campaigns:

Use of hashtags

We have talked a lot this year about the use of hashtags, and how they are one of the most valuable assets in any modern marketing campaign. A hashtag can allow brands to do more: not only to launch their multi-million pound TV ads, but to ensure that they work hard once they’re out. @marksandspencer is a case in point. This year its ‘Alice in Wonderland’ themed ad featured the hashtag #magicandsparkle. It not only summed up the essence of the brand’s campaign and the glitz of the Christmas period, but provided the jump off point for a competition.

In the ad, model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (@RosieHW) loses her dog down a modern-day rabbit hole and gives chase. @marksandspencer launched a competition to name the dog: was it going to be magic or sparkle? It used a variation of its main hashtag (#MagicorSparkle):

We saw @debenhams achieve something similar with another competition when it offered followers the chance to win the clothes featured in this #wishesmadefabulous ad:

Use of content

Creating a hashtag and sharing an exciting piece of content is one part of what retailers can do to be successful on Twitter. Another is creating good content that can help brands spark conversations and opportunities to grow sales.

For instance,after running its Christmas TV ad @marksandspencer broke it down on Twitter. The ad became multiple pieces of ready to roll content that could be individually Tweeted. For instance the image of @RosieHW in her road coat in the ad became an invitation to consumers to buy the coat in its online store.

@debenhams pursued a similar idea. It offered followers the chance to ‘shop the looks’ of everything in its TV ad from the “dazzling party dresses, chic statement coats and luxury lingerie”.

One of the most ambitious Christmas ads we have seen this season is from @Argos_Online. The campaign, featuring live Twitter integration, challenged viewers to suggest gifts with the hashtag #Giftforsanta. With prizes on offer, the campaign played out over the course of three ad breaks during various ITV programmes, including ‘The X Factor’ and ‘I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!’

To make it more compelling, the content in the ads was tailored to individual shows. For instance reality TV star @JoeyEssex_ was directly name checked in a spot during the ad break for ‘The Only Way Is Essex’.

In the first ad break, @Argos_Online asked viewers to make their suggestions; the second was a reminder; and in the third the brand’s alien characters (including dad voiced by Bill Nighy) read out the winners live on air.

The campaign racked up 63,000 mentions of the hashtag #Giftforsanta and also saw high levels of engagement for @Argos_Online.