SXSW: 6 ways retailers can use social data

If you’re attending SXSW (or just looking for an insider’s perspective), follow Marketing’s Russ Martin on Twitter @russless and @Marketing_Mag

As research and development manager at Accenture Technology Labs, Brian Landry tests new technologies and recently turned his attention to the use of social data in the retail space.

Brian Landry

Many retailers are just starting to take advantage of social media to listen to customers and better understand them. On Sunday, members of Landry’s team, including consultant Marjan Baghaie were set to present a new paper at South by South West based on Accenture’s findings. Marketing spoke with Landry to get an overview of the study, and got six tips for a better retail experience.

Make shopping more convenient

By asking consumers to link their shopper profiles with social accounts, retailers can gain access to a host of information that makes shopping more convenient. If a customer is making a purchase, Landry said, and the retailer has access to that customer’s Facebook calendar, they may see the customer is taking a vacation and offer to send it to their hotel instead of their home address.

If the customer has given the retailer access, that retailer may also know, for example, that the upcoming trip is for an anniversary or a birthday and could suggest a second item as a gift based on purchase history.

Select products based on social interest

By monitoring social closely, retailers can spot products that are rising in popularity. For example, the pink shoes Wendy Davis wore during her eleven-hour filibuster in Texas last year gained massive popularity on Amazon. By monitoring social trends, a retailer could have predicted the shoes’ popularity and stocked more of the Mizuno “Wave Rider” in liberal markets.

Deliver a customized experience

Social data offers marketers the chance to provide the kind of personalized experience local shopkeepers used to deliver. Learning about a customer’s interest graph, as well as their family, habits and hobbies via social data gives retailers the chance to personalize their web marketing and e-commerce.

This could mean delivering a customized site with offers and selected items based on a consumer’s interests and what they share on social, but it could also take the form of personalized recipes based on diet and budget, recommendations culled from what the user or their friends share on social or customized coupons.

Save cash by increasing efficiency

Paying attention to what customers like on social media can help retailers decide which products to carry. Ultimately, making more efficient buys can save the retailers cash, which they can pass along to customers as savings.

For example, Target has a Pinterest board called Target Awesome Shop with popular items from both Target.com and Pinterest. The board promotes Target products, but it’s also a peek into what’s trending that can help the retailer predict what its consumers want. Further, Landry said retailers can use social data to see which items are popular in different markets and adjust stock based on regional popularity.

Improve customer service even before customers contact you

Consumers use social as a channel to ask questions or complain, and retailers should be there to respond. But passively listening to social also offers the chance to fix a problem before a customer has even come to you with it. Social listening often shows how satisfied customers are with purchases, too, allowing retailers to tweak their messaging to a customer based on how well a previous purchase was received.

Social data also gives retailers more information for personalized offers. For example, if a regular, affluent customer isn’t likely to respond to coupons or discounts, a retailer may reward them with something from their interest graph, like an invite to a Q&A with a designer they like or tickets to a cultural event.

Learn about customers by segment

Social data allows retailers to segment customers beyond basic, superficial demographic data. Because, for example, two 30-year-old females from the same city may be very different, a retailer can instead segment customers based on how valuable they are or other qualifiers gleaned from social data.

Using interest- or value-based insights, retailers can recruit similar customers or experiment with promotions and offers to see which initiatives work best with different groups.

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