Influential Power of Social Media on Retailers

August 13, 2015 | B2C Retail Social Media

Shoppers aren’t the only ones being influenced by social media. Retailers are also acting on the conversations going on about their brands—at least the savvy ones are. Topshop and Target are two recent examples.


U.K. fashion powerhouse Topshop found itself in the hot seat. The retailer came under heavy fire recently for using ultra-thin mannequins in its stores. It all started when a 23-year-old shopper, turned off by a rail thin mannequin she saw in a Topshop store, a form she described as “frankly ridiculously shaped,” posted a photo of the mannequin on Topshop’s Facebook page.

The shopper accompanied the photo with a strongly worded message in which she criticized Topshop and asked the retailer to take responsibility for the “impression you have on women and young girls,” and to help them “feel good about themselves rather than impose these ridiculous standards.”

She wrote: “Young women aspire to the somewhat cult image your store offers. Yet not one mannequin in your store showed anything bigger than a size 6.”

The shopper’s posting quickly went viral. Newspapers picked it up, and anorexia charities in the United Kingdom complained. Hundreds of people replied on Topshop's Facebook page. Topshop took notice—also quickly.

The retailer posted a public response claiming the model was based on a standard U.K. size 10, but the form had been stylized for added impact in store. The company went on to say “we have taken yours and other customers' opinions and feedback on board and going forward we are not placing any further orders on this style of mannequin.”


On the home front, Target Corp. plans to start removing gender-based signage in several departments—toys, kids’ bedding and entertainment. It’s also eliminating the pink, blue, yellow and green backdrops on the back of the walls of the toy area to eliminate cues or suggestions based on gender.

The decision came after a young mother tweeted a photo in June of gender-based signage at a Target store in Ohio. The tweet, which called out “building sets” and “girls building sets” went viral and spurred a social media uproar. Target’s announcement that it would implement gender-free signage made no reference to the tweet, but it seems pretty clear the retailer was paying attention—and that the external buzz sparked or least added extra fire to an internal conversation.

“We know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary. We heard you, and we agree,” Target stated.

Topshop and Target. Two very different retailers ---but each has an innate understanding of the powerful agent social media can be for change.

Posted by Angel Carra | Request as a Speaker

On the go, mother of two, who believes things happen for a reason. SVP of Sparks Retail focused on driving the best client and customer experience – because I know how they want to be treated.