Last week, online menswear retailer JackThreads wrapped their “farewell sale,” unloading their merchandise for 70% off as they prepared to officially go out of business. Like most other loses, the death of a brand provides an important opportunity to reflect—particularly on the specific and unique challenges each brand faces given their position and circumstance.

While the demise of JackThreads had more to do with a flawed business model than anything else, one could imagine, like all other online retailers, the brand felt an inordinate amount of pressure to perform on social media.

That pressure to perform is a result of the fact that social media presents a handful of the very few entry points consumers have to access online retailers’ products. A way to think about the internet as it relates to retailers would be to consider the world wide web one giant mall. Each online retailer has their own store within the mall. Social media platforms—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram—would be the mall’s different entrances.

If a brand has a weak presence on a particular platform—or is located further away from a prime entrance to the mall, per the analogy—their potential for sales decreases significantly.

Although the benefits of social listening don’t vary based on product or place—brick and mortar retailers use social listening for the same reasons online retailers do—brands who exclusively sell their merchandise via the internet do feel the impact of those benefits a bit more, given the nature of their business. As an online retailer, a brand like JackThreads is limited to online practices. A brand like Macy’s on the other hand is afforded way more outlets than JackThreads.

Moreover, given the fact that social media serves as their eyes and ears, attentive social listening should be a priority for online retailers. While larger brands have the benefit of employing in-store associates to field customer feedback, social platforms are one of the few outlets consumers have to voice their opinions concerning online retailers—thusly, social mentions are critical for this specific type of brand.

Specific aspects of social listening online retailers should focus on include the afforded ability to identify influencers, manage a crisis, and build a social media management report.

Within their nine years of business, JackThreads managed to accomplish a lot under the unique burden of being an online shop. As we hope the forward thinking retailer will someday make a return to both selling and listening, we’re sure their hundreds and thousands of dapper young fans will miss them sorely.

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