Chico’s Extends Its Customer Insights With Social Media Analytics

This is Part IV of Retail TouchPoints’ multi-part feature investigating trends and developments in social media analytics and the business intelligence the technique provides. This segment focuses on Chico’s current, real-world social media analytics application, with additional insights from its provider, SAS. This series will conclude in RTP’s July 10 newsletter with “Advice For Retailers,” imparted by several of the analysts, vendors and retailers participating in this update.

Social media analytics strategies help retailers to profile and analyze social channels to help determine what customers really want from their brands and retailers.

A number of successful retailers are seeing positive results from the use of social media analytics. At Chico’s FAS, for example: “Our success is rooted in a heritage of listening and responding to what our consumers want,” Jessica Wells, VP of Social Marketing for Chico’s FAS, told Retail TouchPoints. To help maintain that success, “we’ve implemented a social media analytics tool to better understand what is being said about our brands and where people are saying it. We then apply this intelligence to our core decision making.”


Chico’s FAS is a specialty retailer of private branded women’s apparel marketed under the Chico’s, White House|Black Market (WHBM) and Soma Intimates brands. The company operates more than 1,100 boutiques and 125 outlets, with each brand maintaining its own e-Commerce web site. With the ability to listen to and uncover sentiment about key aspects of its business ― across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, discussion forums, blogs and more ― Chico’s learns how customers feel about the products and brands. Social media analytics helps to identify key influencers and uncover how social media conversations affect business results. In real-time the company can apply answers to brand strategies, media placement, public relations and customer service activities.

Using social media analytics tools from SAS, Chico’s captures tweets in real time and identifies those significant to its brands based on sentiment and the influence of the Twitter author. Key tweets are routed to Chico’s customer-facing personnel for response.

Overall, social media analytics allows the company to extend its customer insights beyond the boundaries of its physical stores, web sites and call-centers into the social channels where related apparel conversations are occurring.

Wells said Chico’s engages its social media analytics tool with the following overarching goals:

  • See the bigger picture, understand how social media conversations affect business results, and apply this intelligence to decision making;
  • Enhance internal social media reporting strategy;
  • Identify key influencers;
  • Ensure more timely responses to customers and maintain our high standard of customer service; and
  • Better allocate time and resources spent on social media management.

In an example related to Chico’s White House|Black Market Spring 2012 TV advertising campaign, Wells illustrated a scenario in which the SAS social media analytics tool positively impacted the business: “With these in-depth analytics, we immediately could gauge the public’s response to this TV spot, which focused on WHBM’s ‘Work Kit’ collection and featured well-known fashion model Coco Rocha,” explained Wells. “We immediately accessed snapshots of web conversations on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other media outlets, and reported the responses directly back to key stakeholders within the brand, including marketing, merchandising and customer service. Because we could see where these conversations were taking place, media placement and public relations strategies could be modified.”      

Following are samples (provided by SAS) of the types of information Chico’s FAS and other retailers can glean from social media analytics:

The screen above shows how social media analytics helps retailers examine social influence by media source.


This screen shows how social media analytics can help retailers listen to and gain insight from different sites, content types and key phrases that resonate with important audiences.

Training The Tool

Wells noted the training component involved in social media analytics; she underscored that brands have to work with their vendors to advise and ensure that the tool itself captures proper terms and sentiment indeed related to that brand. “Like most aspects of social media, analytics is not an exact science,” Wells remarked. “Since these tools use linguistics, you have to learn how to understand text analytics and best interpret the findings then take the appropriate response/action based on the relevant data. For example, for the Chico’s brand, we had to work with SAS to train the tool to pull in conversations about Chico’s, the specialty retail fashion brand, not the Mexican restaurant. We also had to train it to filter content containing the word ‘Chicos’ when a post was referring to ‘boys’ in Spanish.”

E-Commerce Growth: Volumes Of Social Intelligence To Mine

At SAS, Wilson Raj, Global Customer Intelligence Director, told Retail TouchPoints that in conversations with customers and attendance at industry conferences, he sees e-Commerce as “hotter than ever.” He pointed to a February 2012 study from Forrester Research reporting that online sales are expected to grow from 7% of overall retail sales to close to 9% by 2016. The report stated U.S. e-Commerce sales will grow 62% by 2016, to $327 billion, up from $202 billion last year, and European e-Commerce will grow by 78% by 2016, to $230 billion.

“With that growth comes the volumes of intelligence to be mined from e-Commerce,” said Raj. “This includes not just listening to and recognizing trends in social media, but identifying sentiments such as why people are buying and how they feel about the shopping experience; how to reach them; what kinds of products, services and support they want; and much more.”

Customers Want A Brand Experience

Raj said he’s seen retailers, armed with this intelligence, develop a brand experience resulting in tremendous growth in terms of loyalty and brand advocates, repeat purchases and overall sales across the board. “That brand experience,” he added, “goes way beyond offering a dress at 20% off and running a promotion on it.”

For retailers, the focus of the online space no longer is about choice, price and convenience and reviews, Raj underscored. “Those elements are still important, but now customers are asking for a relationship; they want a compelling experience added to the mix,” he said. “Retailers must concentrate not just on selling products but offering real-time, personalized brand experiences across the social channels. Those retailers that focus on these experiences will do very well,” he declared.

Raj elaborated that while the information gleaned from social media analytics is valuable, it must connect to merchants’ other systems and data points to produce the most compelling retail experiences. “More often we are seeing the retail CMO and CIO working closely together,” said Raj. “That’s where the real opportunity lies.”

Part V of RTP’s five-part update on Social Media Analytics will conclude in the July 10 newsletter with “Advice For Retailers,” offered by several of the analysts, vendors and retailers participating in this update. Click here to read Parts I, II and III.

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