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How Social Media Customer Feedback Helps Retailers Enhance the Customer Experience

Much is written about social media and its impact on brands and consumer opinions. Even more commentary has surfaced on listening platforms used to help organizations capture customer feedback online. But there is a key aspect to social feedback that remains unanswered for many business leaders: What to do with all the feedback?

Mining customer feedback and analyzing the insights creates a powerful lens into the retail customer experience. The problem, however, is that while many brands are listening to the online chatter, too few are analyzing it in a meaningful way. A recent survey by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, for instance, found that while more than half of the surveyed companies are using social media, less than one quarter (23%) are using any form of social media analytical tools, while only 5% are using some form of customer sentiment analysis. 

It’s no wonder that retailers state that “capturing, synthesizing and analyzing customer information across functions must become a significant focus,” according to the 2010 National Retail Federation Retail Horizons Report.

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Getting “under the hood” of online customer conversations is an unprecedented opportunity to identify and remove the obstacles to delivering superior customer experience. Social analytics increasingly are used to achieve these goals by helping brands understand the meaning and hidden value behind the reams of social data. Unfortunately, though the analytics gravitate towards tangible metrics such as  “followers,” “likes” or star ratings, they severely lack the actionable analysis and value executives need to drive business decisions. 

Social business intelligence ―, the intersection of social media customer feedback, business intelligence, and industry specific technology ― provides retailers with clear performance indicators specific to the retail industry and real opportunities to grow their business. By capturing and aggregating a comprehensive and credible view of social media feedback and synthesizing it into the richest insight, social business intelligence turns volumes of unstructured online mentions into a best-in-class performance summary.

A true social business intelligence platform delivers three key areas of actionable insight:

Social Customer Satisfaction

There is no denying that your customers are talking about you online, and with great reach and influence. They tweet, post, blog, chat and assign ratings about your brand and retail experience ― both the good and not-so-good. They also are talking about whether or not they will return to your store or recommend you to their peers.

“Conventional marketing wisdom has held that a dissatisfied customer tells 10 people. But in the new age of social media, he or she has the tools to tell 10 million,” says Paul Gillian, author of The New Influencers. This is why it’s so critical for retailers to not just resolve the existing issues, but be proactive in averting future issues. Advances in analytics, including sentiment and credibility analyses, give retailers the power to drill down into the real-time customer feedback and identify steps they need to drive operational improvements, optimize merchandising and enhance the overall customer experience. This type of insight is generated from a platform that can organize the unstructured online feedback into operational categories specific to the retail experience.

Business intelligence via social media has become a core strategy for Canadian athletic wear retailer Lululemon, as its CEO Christine Day tells Forbes Magazine: “We learn on Facebook and through social media what our guests are really screaming for, and we actually use the feedback.” The company has made myriad changes, from where pockets sit on pants to the placement of waistbands on running shorts. It even learned that it needed to stock more small sizes, based on online customer feedback.

Social Competitive Intelligence

Social business intelligence also helps retailers better understand their competitors’ strategies. In today’s socially-connected, consumer-led world, there are few places that are more effective than social media at helping companies gather a goldmine of customer insights into their competitor products, services, customers, etc. Social Competitive Intelligence follows the same methodology of data aggregation and analysis as Social Customer Satisfaction for one’s own brand. Accordingly, brands can realize unmatched and targeted customer intelligence on one of the most powerful customer insight data sets available.

Social Marketing Intelligence

With the rise of social media, how do marketers make sense of various customer touch points? How do they better understand the different reasons customers gravitate to their companies? How do they gain insights into when, where, why and how consumers choose to engage with their brand? How do they know what social media channels are most effective?

Analyzing online feedback gives executives insight into the most relevant customer impressions of their brands and identification of and access to the most pertinent online influencers. Retailers also gain critical demographic data about online customers, engagement opportunities and true voice-of-the-consumer insight. This level of intelligence gives marketers the ability to measure the value of specific social media interaction, which is vital to developing online marketing strategies and informing ROI measurement. According to a recent (2010)global survey of more than 600 CMOs conducted by The CMO Council, 62% of respondents said they plan to focus on analyzing customer data to improve segmentation and marketing, and 32% ranked the need to improve customer data integration and analytics as a top goal.

Retailers know that a comprehensive social business intelligence picture is must-have insight. By mining and fully analyzing customer feedback, retailers gain the depth and breadth of customer insight needed to leverage social media for a true, bottom-line competitive advantage.

Ashish Gambhir is Co-founder and Executive Vice President of newBrandAnalytics, a provider of social business intelligence solutions for the retail, hospitality and restaurant industries. newBrandAnalytics’ flagship and enterprise-grade product, Social Guest Satisfaction™, enables organizations focused on customer satisfaction to identify real-time key insights from guest feedback. newBrandAnalytics insight is designed to yield operational improvement, enhanced marketing opportunities and new strategic initiatives that drive increased revenue and guest count. For more information, please visit www.newBrandAnalytics.com.

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