Over the past few years, major retailers have faced major challenges in maintaining revenue growth. In 2019, retailers announced plans to close down a record-breaking number of 9,300 stores. Simultaneously, consumers, who are exposed to a growing amount of fashion-related online media, are opting for new, online-only clothing companies. These clothing brands are smaller and, therefore, more agile, which allows them to (1) quickly respond to trends and (2) adapt their production processes to consumer demand almost instantaneously. However, in the face of these growing obstacles, trend detection can give retailers an advantage that allows them to monitor their online reputation in real-time, respond to growing trends, and identify the best platforms and campaigns to invest in. Today, we’re exploring a trend study of Zara, Uniqlo, and H&M and their online performance.

Trend Study Reveals The Relationship Between Multiple Topics and Brands

Without a doubt, people use the Internet to talk about what they wear. Research in 2019 has shown that nearly one-fifth (17%) of people use Instagram to find the latest trends. Five years ago, that number was merely 8%. Furthermore, 13% of people say that social media has an impact on their fashion-buying decisions, compared to 7% five years prior. Moreover, in 2019, the number of Instagram posts using the hashtag #ad increased by nearly 50%.

We didn’t have to dig far into our trend study to find an example of this influence in action. One micro-influencer posted a YouTube video that featured the newest line of clothing from H&M. One viewer expressed her piqued interest in H&M.

Fortunately, companies large and small now see the importance of paying attention to online discussions. So what are people saying about leading retailers, and how should these companies react? Signals, Synthesio’s AI-powered trend detector, focuses on identifying relationships between topics and proving their strength in a quantifiable way. In our trend study, Signals found that H&M and Zara are mentioned together at a statistically significant rate. To be precise, Zara is mentioned in 6.7% of the conversations about H&M.

This evidence suggests that consumers of both brands display considerable overlap in their purchasing behavior. This group likely represents a much large population that does not actively post online. (Read more about how companies can find audience insights on consumers who are not active on social media.)

Spikes In Online Engagement Reveal The Types of Online Content That Audiences Want To See

Variations in the amount of online engagement that a brand receives are always present, making it difficult for companies to identify changes that they should pay attention to. For that reason, Signals pinpoints statistically significant changes, alerting you of the events that you should take note of immediately.

In our trend study, we analyzed the online engagement of content related to Zara, Uniqlo, and H&M over six months. Today, we’re diving into the top peaks.


Let’s first look at the unexpected spike in interactions during the end of September, where interactions increased by 180% compared to the previous week.


We can determine the underlying cause by simply clicking into the data point. Every data point within Synthesio’s suite comes with an auto-generated contextual report, which allows users to see the sentiment, top hashtags, geography, top content, and more behind the occurrence.

By looking at the contextual report, we were able to pinpoint the reason behind the spike, which was a partnership between H&M and Sesame Street. Sesame Street published three videos, each of which demonstrated how to create DIY crafts from old clothing. All of the videos received between 500k to one million views.

This unique strategy appears to target young children and their parents. Rather than appealing to an audience of teenagers or young adults, H&M, which produces both children and adult clothing, is instead targeting an audience of kids and parents. Its partnership with Sesame Street, which contains no direct advertisement, pushes H&M into the booming industry of YouTube videos designed for children.

Let’s see where else H&M might be succeeding.

Trend Study Reveals Consumer Values

Our trend study revealed the top words used in online content around the three retailers we studied. Being able to see these top words allows brands to understand the tone and content of millions, or even billions of conversations, at a glance. We noticed something interesting in online reviews.

First, let’s take a look at the panel on the righthand side. Signals found several top words related to H&M, which were T-shirt, living, cushion, and pillow, among others. While “T-shirt” clearly refers to H&M’s tees, the other words appear unrelated to retail clothing. 


However, once you consider the fact that H&M also produces a line of home decor items, the keywords make sense. The retail company’s decision to branch into home decor has proved to be a good one, as their products continue to generate online engagement for them.

Next, let’s look closely at the left-hand panel of the top 50 words from reviews. Some of the overall top keywords are app, easy, service, experience, and quality. A glance at this list tells companies what retail consumers like to talk about in their reviews, including, most notably, ease-of-use within apps as well as customer experience. A platform that automates trend study enables large companies to understand what consumers value within seconds so that improvements can be made.

Trend Study Identifies Top Media Content For Future Campaigns

Signals also picked up another significant spike, this time for Uniqlo.


The contextual report identified the top countries that contributed to the spike, which included the U.S., Malaysia, and Indonesia.


But what exactly was the cause of the spike? Here are the top three videos and the insights they bring to brands.

Influencers and Viral Dance Challenges

This video was created by Ellen and Brian, who post dance covers on YouTube and Instagram and currently have 1.6 million followers. In their version of a viral dance challenge called the #AnySongChallenge, Ellen (pictured right) wore a Uniqlo shirt. 

While the focal point of the video is the dance challenge, viewers are naturally exposed to the dancers’ styles. Brands like Uniqlo should consider the opportunity of partnering not only with fashion-focused influencers, but also those related to dance and music, many of which have remarkably avid fans.

Vloggers At In-Person Events

Secondly, TheTimTracker, a tourism-focused vlogger with over 750k subscribers, posted a vlog where he visits a Lunar New Year event at a Uniqlo in Florida and shares his experience with his viewers.

Although Uniqlo did not sponsor the video, it organically exposed hundreds of thousands of viewers to the brand and highlighted its dedication to local events. As more and more brick-and-mortar succumb to closure, a combination of in-person events and influencers may be one method to boost foot traffic.

Lookbooks and Styling Videos

Lastly, a fashion-focused YouTube channel called DevanOnDeck featured a video on affordable winter trends and included Uniqlo items. DevanOnDeck has nearly 300k subscribers. Naturally, its audience, a population interested in fashion, is likely to be influenced by styling tips and product suggestions from the channel.


Clothing retailers are no stranger to partnering with fashion-focused channels and accounts. We encourage retailers to continue this tried-and-true strategy, which reaches the right audience and can sway purchasing behavior.

Trend Study Shows Brands Where to Invest Their Marketing Budget

Finally, we thought it was vital to demonstrate another point. We identified the top platforms where people speak about Zara, Uniqlo, and H&M below. Notice how top platforms for all three brands include Twitter, Instagram, forums, and Reddit. 


However, the spikes in engagement that we discussed above were all from YouTube content, not Twitter or Instagram content. This tells us high volume on a particular platform does not necessarily guarantee positive engagement. When it comes to generating high engagement, retailers should invest their budget into YouTube and partnering with creators there. Nonetheless, marketing campaigns on Twitter and Instagram are highly recommended, given the extensive reach of those platforms.

Factcheck Your Marketing Campaigns with Trend Analysis

Clothing retailers worldwide are undergoing a crisis. In short, stores are underperforming, and consumers are slowly gravitating toward smaller, online-only brands. Retailers need to quickly find ways to change their marketing strategy to reestablish relationships with audiences and meet their needs. Trend analysis helps brands to steer clear of wasted marketing budget and campaigns with low engagement rates. Our most recent case study explains how one leading meat processing company used trend analysis to understand what consumers are seeking and isolate strategies that create connections with consumers.