Discount retailers are competing more intensely than ever to win consumer loyalty and dollars. Although diverse merchandise and product assortment is key to the success of leading retailers such as T.J.Maxx, Marshalls and Kohl’s, results from NetBase’s Brand Passion Index reveal that overall customer experience is a vital part of obtaining positive sentiment.
NetBase is a social media insight and analysis company whose solutions are sold worldwide by SAP. During a 12-month period ending February 2011, the firm gathered data, via its Insight Workbench tool, concerning consumer behaviors as well as emotions and opinions of discount retailers. Insight Workbench allows brands and retailers to extract customer perceptions from social media discussions. As a result, companies can achieve greater brand health and capitalize on customer opinion more effectively, according to Lisa Joy Rosner, CMO of NetBase.
“The marketing world has moved from print to TV, and TV to online,” Rosner said. “Social media is the next step in this evolution, so it’s really time for retailers to hop on board.”
Most retailers apply basic principles of standard customer communication. But today’s conversations have become two-way, creating a greater opportunity for merchants to enhance relationships with shoppers. “This is causing the change from B2C to C2B,” Rosner noted. “Consumers are telling retailers what they want, and it’s up to the merchants to understand, engage and apply the insights.”
By tapping into data across social channels, retail marketers and executives can get their fingers on the pulse of what consumers are thinking and feeling in real-time, Rosner reported. Optimal customer service, offers and assortment will then be easier to achieve.
“Retailers can’t just have a Facebook page and paste promotions it — they have to engage in the social conversation,” Rosner stated. “Moreover, if retailers aren’t paying attention and understanding social sentiment, they won’t be able to respond and take the needed action.”
Findings from the NetBase analysis of shopper preferences spotlight the importance of leveraging social data to improve cross-channel shopping experiences. All categories within the Insight Workbench are rated on a scale of one to 100. Overall, Kohl’s generated the largest share of buzz, acquiring more than half (54.6%) of social chatter. However, T.J.Maxx was the clear leader in Passion Intensity and Net Sentiment, obtaining scores of 78 and 68, respectively.
Kohl’s achieved positive social responses in all areas, ranking second in Passion Intensity (68), and third in Net Sentiment (61). Conversely, designer goods discount merchant Marshalls received the lowest reviews via social networking sites; the retailer ranked last in general buzz (4%), Passion Intensity (45) and Net Sentiment (54). Although T.J.Maxx and Marshalls are part of the same parent company, TJX, it is evident that overall shopper perceptions of the brands are vastly different, especially in the areas of customer service and experience.
As consumers continue to rely on social media to share their thoughts and feelings of retail experiences, it is more imperative than ever for retailers to understand what consumers are saying about their stores, and through which sites. “Now, people will tweet about bad service, a filthy store or bathroom, and a nasty cashier,” Rosner said. “However, shoppers also will discuss a great find or a memorable campaign. It works both ways."
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