The Growing Impact of Social Intelligence on Retail

For years, retailers have been attempting to “listen” to social media with basic keywords and sampling tools in an attempt to glean some element of valuable insight from the wealth of intelligence within the billions of daily comments from millions of individual shoppers and consumers. Unfortunately, the narrow view these tools provide of the open social universe along with the gaiting aspects of keywords has made it a frustrating endeavor for most businesses delivering little more than useless “buzz.”

Today, however, the next generation of social “listening” has evolved into social intelligence through the use of advanced “big data” processing and complex concept modeling to deliver deep, powerful, and most importantly, actionable, views of markets, brands, shoppers, consumers and competitors.

Here are five ways retailers are currently leveraging advanced social intelligence to drive strategic decision-making:

Personifying Segments

With millions of shoppers and consumers sharing their retail and brand experiences online across a myriad of open source social channels, including blogs, forums, social networks, rating sites, etc., the ability for retailers to genuinely understand the needs, wants, behaviors, attitudes, interests and overall drivers of individual customers has never been greater.

In fact, social intelligence allows retailers to segment and personify customers at multidimensional levels to enhance awareness and loyalty based on their specific shopping needs and habits. With this, comprehensive, detailed personas can be constructed to personify shoppers and consumers to better understand their needs, decisions and actions.

Here is an example of detailed consumer personas for Apple products and stores constructed from over 2.2 million customer social conversations.The Growing Impact of Social Intelligence on Retail image Apple Book Persona Graphic 300x222The Growing Impact of Social Intelligence on Retail

Within the dominant “Brand Addicts” group, 57 percent reveal a need to acquire new Apple products immediately, displaying a fierce loyalty to the brand, often irrespective of the product itself.

Many of these consumers are not only “addicts” to Apple products and retail stores, but also evangelists for the brand overall, with most indicating the are responsible for introducing new consumers to the Apple ecosystem from competing products and technology retailers.

The construction of these consumer segments can become highly specific and valuable to the retailer. For example, tens of thousands of these “Brand Addicts” revealed putting off major expenditures, even delaying weddings, putting off monthly bills or deferring student loan payments, to purchase a new Apple product from the Apple Store.

Mapping the Customer’s Journey

The concept of the customer journey has received growing attention in recent years, however social intelligence has transformed this from concept to reality by constructing the actual path customers take based on their own opinions and actions.

This allows retailers to gain a detailed, specific understanding of the various demand moments and decision points of shoppers, including the factors they consider when progressing down the path-to-purchase.The Growing Impact of Social Intelligence on Retail image Potato Chip Path to Purchase 300x154The Growing Impact of Social Intelligence on Retail

Many feel that customer journey mapping is valuable for large-ticket items like cars or computers, but feel that the path-to-purchase for low-ticket items like soup, bread or potato chips is too simplistic, direct or impulsive to have a detailed customer journey map.

As an example, pictured is a generic view of the path-to-purchase for potato chips. This reveals a variety of point many consumers consider in their decision process even for a low priced snack food.

These decision factors range from nutrition and health considerations to lifestyle aspects and purchase pattern changes to product discovery. Retailers can use this insight to drive strategic decisions varying from promotions to product placement.

Tracking Competitors

Another powerful aspect of advanced social intelligence is that retailers can leverage it to gain deep insights on competitors to understand the attitudes, behaviors, decisions, actions and perceptions shoppers have related to the competition. This ranges from pricing and promotions to quality and convenience.

Just like shopper personas and customer journeys can be constructed for the retailer, it also be developed for its competitors by analyzing the competitors’ shopper and customer discussions across the open social universe. This allows the retailer to often understand competitors and their customers better than they understand themselves to help drive strategy and tactics.

Comparative analysis is also commonly conducted to reveal the drivers and decisions behind shoppers switching to and from a retailer and a competitor to relay the drivers in these decisions as well.

An Intelligent Impact

It’s never been more critical for retailers to personify and understand shoppers and consumers on multidimensional levels in terms of their needs, concerns, decisions, behaviors, attitudes, activities and decisions. Today, an increasing number of retailers are realizing that achieving this is possible on an immediate and actionable level with advance social insight by extracting the intelligence within billions of daily comments from tens of millions of shoppers across millions of open social sources.

The key is engaging a solution that can process billions of daily open social discussions with a “big data” engine rather than simplistic tools that use narrow snapshot samples of the social universe. This approach allows retailers to gain a rich, holistic view of their shoppers, customers and consumers, as well as the influencers and competitors impacting their markets and brands.

Examples in this article are borrowed with permission from the book Social Business Intelligence: Reducing Risk, Building Brands and Driving Growth with Social Media (© 2013, Ascendigm Press).

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