Social media ‘coolness’ trumps sustainability for retail consumers

The growing sway of celebrities and influencers on brands' success means social media strategies are increasingly important, writes Kris Cooper.

Retailers need to work with celebrities who align with their brand image and ethos. Credit: martin-dm/Getty Images

Social media’s influence over what is seen as cool is contributing to the growing trend of globalised retail, perhaps more so than sustainability concerns, GlobalData analysts suggest. 

The comments follow recent survey results from market researcher YPulse which found that 69% of 13 to 39-year-olds are more likely to purchase brands that are considered cool than those that are not. 

While consumers buying products deemed cool is nothing new in the world of retail and apparel, the growing sway of celebrities and influencers on brands' success in the age of social media makes it especially pertinent today. 

Brands such as Kim Kardashian’s SKIMs, Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and sportswear brand Nike are desirable among younger consumers today, according to YPulse’s research. A key part of their success is social media strategy for raising brand awareness. 

Globalised retail and sustainability

GlobalData’s report on the Top Themes in Retail and Apparel 2024, highlights globalised retail as a key theme in the industry and it is one that goes hand in hand with the growing use of social media and perceived coolness of brands. 

“Social media contributes massively to the trend of globalised retail,” explains GlobalData analyst Emily Salter. “It allows consumers to be exposed to retailers across the world, regardless of whether they operate in the country they live in. 

“As well as boosting awareness, social media can also give legitimacy to new retailers, for instance by consumers seeing their peers post content about products purchased from this new player.” 

Social media and influencer partnerships can provide avenues for brands to generate the cool factor, but Salter notes that there are prerequisites. 

“For these partnerships to be successful, the retailers need to work with celebrities who align with their brand image and ethos,” she says. 

Interestingly, while shopping sustainably is a growing factor younger consumers are taking into consideration, results from a GlobalData survey suggest that it is perhaps not as disruptive as once thought. 

“GlobalData has found that of those who have ordered items from abroad in the past year, 51.1% of consumers did not consider the environmental impact of their order, and the remaining 48.9% who did consider the environmental impact, were not deterred from making an order,” says analyst Sophie Mitchell.