Social Media Chatter in Canada Indicates Retail as a Hot Discussion Topic Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

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Canadians have been COVID-19 ‘Tweeting’ over the past five months, and retail appears to be a hot topic amongst users. The COVID-19 Twitter conversation sees a new Tweet every 45 milliseconds globally and Canadians have been contributing to the pandemic discourse. Many are using the social media platform to discuss their rapidly-changing consumer habits. Others are using their reach to highlight the Canadian brands who have remained the industry’s backbone during this difficult time. 

PEOPLE ARE COMPARING CHANGING CONSUMER HABITS ON TWITTER

Recent data taken from Twitter showed that 68% of Canadians said their shopping habits will change post-COVID, with a clear trajectory towards ecommerce and online shopping.

Research showed that amongst the new habits cited most frequently on Twitter by Canadian consumers, physical visits to stores were on the decline and home delivery services were becoming increasingly more popular. People were also talking a lot about using self-service checkouts more frequently and wishing to spend limited time within stores, choosing to browse online going forward. 

In March — when Canada entered lockdown — Canadians were blowing up the platform with mentions of household items such as toilet paper, soap, and gloves. In correlation to this, the most-mentioned household brands at that time were Kleenex, Clorox, and Charmin, in that order.

In the dining sphere, data showed the Canadian Twitter conversation about food takeout and delivery had increased by +4x between January-May 2020 when compared to January-April 2019. Uber Eats and Door Dash fared most favourably on Twitter in terms of delivery services. 

CONSUMERS ARE SPOTLIGHTING RETAILERS WHO SHONE THROUGH THE COVID STORM

In addition to comparing consumer habits, Canadians are also flocking to Twitter to discuss their favourite retailers. Across the country brands have seen exponential growth in overall Twitter mentions since January. Engagement has been extremely high for particular Canadian retailers — such as Loblaws and Canadian Tire — and the data is showing prolific brand mention growth for many of the big box stores existing within the Canadian retail landscape. Brands that have fared well include:

  • Loblaws saw a brand mention growth of +145.27%

  • Walmart saw a brand mention growth of +65.28%

  • Costco saw a brand mention growth of 187.59%

  • Home Depot saw a brand mention growth of +166.98%

  • Canadian Tire saw a brand mention growth of +72.91%

  • McDonald’s saw a brand mention growth of +43.16%

In Ontario alone, growth mention increased immensely for the same brands. Data below shows the growth statistics:

  • Loblaws saw a brand mention growth in Ontario of 227.77%

  • Walmart saw a brand mention growth in Ontario of 64.09%

  • Costco saw a brand mention growth in Ontario of 318.54%

  • Home Depot saw a brand mention growth in Ontario of 218.45%

  • Canadian Tire saw a brand mention growth in Ontario of 15.36%

  • McDonald’s saw a brand mention growth in Ontario of 52.46%

Data generated from Twitter also showed that 84% of Canadians agree that brands should communicate with customers on initiatives being implemented in a time of crisis. And it would appear that brands are doing just that, with an overwhelming positive consensus emerging from the Twittersphere. Canadians are generally impressed with how retailers conducted themselves; feeling heard and appreciated during this time.

CANADIANS KEEPING TWITTER POSITIVE DURING TURBULENT TIMES

The positive dialogue on Twitter amongst Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic is somewhat opposing to the questionable reputation the social platform has been known to have. Many are quick to criticize Twitter — in comparison to other social media platforms — for its prevalence of inflammatory or combative discourse. The ‘cancel culture’ that is emerging from media outlets is rampant on Twitter, and a global pandemic is sure to heighten tensions. 

To date however, the ‘hero pay’ conversation is really the only controversial retail topic that appeared to trend during this time. Currently under fire for retracting the COVID wage increase, Canadian grocerants such as Loblaws, Metro, and Sobeys are navigating their first COVID-19 scandal. In saying that, thousands have also praised these grocery stores for their tireless efforts to keep Canadians equipped with essentials during this time. 

SCREENSHOT OF MOLSON CANADIAN TWEET ANNOUNCING ITS #MAKEITCANADIANBEER INITIATIVE. PHOTO: TWITTER

In recent weeks the #SupportLocal hashtag has emerged frequently — increasing by 60% in Canada from March to April— as Canadians encourage each other to support their local businesses. The month-over-month growth of the hashtag can be seen in some Canadian cities listed below. These numbers compare the total #SupportLocal mentions in April 2020 to the hashtag’s total mentions in March 2020:

  • Vancouver +98%

  • Calgary +29% 

  • Edmonton +56%

  • Ottawa +63%

Molson Canadian has taken this unexpected opportunity to spotlight smaller Canadian-founded brewers on Canada Day with the hashtag initiative #MakeitCanadianBeer. The iconic Canadian beer brand has created “the most Canadian case of beer ever” by replacing their traditional cases of Molson beer with local partner breweries from across the country. In an attempt to support and leverage smaller Canadian breweries, Molson is giving people the opportunity to build their own case of beer by selecting brands from participating brewers in their local area. Molson used Twitter to garner attention and Canadians were more than happy to disseminate the good news across the platform. 

Another brand using Twitter to connect to its customers during this time is Canada’s iconic Loblaws No Name Brand. Taking a humorous stance on aspects of lockdown everyone is struggling with, the brand has been applying its famous yellow background and minimalistic black letter to create fake “haircutting guides” and “zoom backgrounds”. The posts receive great traction, with humorous and positive conversation ensuing amongst Twitter users. 

Molson Canadian and No Name Brand then went on to have an unexpected back-and-forth banter about their COVID-related initiatives. The general Twitter discourse appears to have remained overwhelmingly positive and highly interactive during this unprecedented time. Certainly generating some much needed buoyancy during this heavy time. 

SCREENSHOT OF MOLSON CANADIAN AND NO NAME BRAND TWEETING ONE ANOTHER. PHOTO: TWITTER
SCREENSHOT OF MOLSON CANADIAN AND NO NAME BRAND TWEETING ONE ANOTHER. PHOTO: TWITTER

It’s been really great to see such positivity within the Twitter community, especially during such a difficult time,” said Twitter Canada’s Head of CPG, Retail and Dining, Karen Zuccala. The outpouring of support from both consumers and businesses is obvious. People are supporting their local businesses and bigger brands are spotlighting the smaller ones. Twitter, when used correctly, is a safe space for people to engage and interact with each other and the brands and retailers they love the most.”

Article Author

Jessica Finch
Jessica Finch
Jessica Finch is a writer and editor based in Toronto. She holds a BA in English and Psychology and is a graduate of Ryerson University’s Publishing program. She has extensive managerial experience in the food service industry, and is interested in exploring innovations within this sector and other retail environments.

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