Elevating the consumer experience with social media analytics and retail data

Social Business Manager, IBM

Once upon a time, retail was a one-sided conversation, with companies dictating trends, points of purchase, even price. Today, it’s an always-on, multiplatform model that counts on social media to understand consumers—wherever they are and on whatever channel they buy. We asked big data experts: how can social media analytics and retail data elevate the consumer experience?

David Bell

Professor, Xinmei Zhang and Yongge Dai, and professor, marketing, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Social media and retail analytics elevate the customer experience in several ways: 

  • They facilitate organic and value-add connectivity among customers.
  • They allow retailers to better understand preferences—by passively tracking consumer behavior and by predicting and anticipating future behavior.
  • They enable retailers to build narratives and be more authentic, transparent and engaging.

Social media facilitates what consumers, as human beings, fundamentally want—engagement, connection and shared experiences. Analytics supplements and makes up for consumer deficiencies by remembering which brands consumers like, what they bought last time and so on. The former taps emotions; the latter makes up for cognitive deficiencies.

Mario Natarelli

Managing partner, MBLM

Our global research shows that shoppers are looking for retailers to exceed expectations and deliver superior service and efficacy. Increasingly, brands are seeking to mine social and retail data to understand needs and preferences of shoppers. Social data can be extremely useful in nurturing followers that have already formed bonds with your product or brand. We believe it can also be effective in better understanding influencers and prevailing sentiment. This type of data is directional and can be leveraged for new or repeat customers and purchases. At the other end of the spectrum, retail data can be used to validate marketing strategies and uncover potential opportunities of gaps.

Russell Walker

Professor, Kellogg School of Management, and author, From Big Data to Big Profits

Social networks are a great place for product and brand discovery by consumers through their peers. The best marketing is that which is done by your own customers. A mom raves about a new disposable diaper product to friends or a motorcycle enthusiast reads about a new accessory and brags about it to friends. Leveraging the community to spread the work of your product is immensely powerful and brings a greater level of trust than ever to the brand. Social networks enable that trust. Retailers and merchandisers need to look to the big data of social media sites to access and communicate with customers, spread the word about products and drive deeper emotional connections with customers. They also need to carefully examine the conversation with consumers to enable product innovation and brand extensions.

Robert Tercek

Business futurist; former president, digital media, at OWN; and author, Vaporized: Solid Strategies for Success in a Vaporized World

The challenge for all retailers, big and small, is to improve the consumer shopping experience without increasing friction. Every social media interaction involves transaction costs in terms of time, attention and hassle. For consumers, logging in and launching an app feels like friction. They wonder, “What do I get out of this exchange?” Sure, every customer can check in or post a comment on a shopping site or give a five-star product review or even launch the retailer’s in-store app. But if no immediate and direct benefit to the consumer exists, success will prove fleeting.

Understand how to engage with consumers through their external conversations.

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