What the wise men of retail should analyse this Christmas

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It’s coming up to Christmas and for anyone in the retail or the retail marketing business, it’s a great time to get customer insights – before, during and after the holiday season. To do this, retailers need to follow social media channels. However, ordinary social media analysis usually means wading through a range of individual analysis tools that, more often or not, only provide numerical data. This may  not truly reflect consumer opinion or sentiment.

Watson Analytics for Social Media is different. It doesn’t analyse likes, shares and other structured responses. It analyses unstructured data – the text comments that people are posting or responding to on social media.

Let’s consider this holiday season and how IBM’s social media tool can provide actionable insights in the fast-moving retail business.

Customer thoughts and opinions

For better or worse, people express themselves more freely on social media. Unlike with surveys, they are not directed down a certain path to give specific answers (shock, horror surveys can be written to give predetermined outcomes!).

Social media can provide broader, more contextualised answers. For example, exploring a discussion around the theme “How much to spend on gifts?” is more informative than asking a closed question like “How much are you going to spend on gifts this holiday season?”

Watson Analytics for Social Media gathers comments and opinion from social media, then groups them into structured data, revealing prominent trends or sentiments. Bringing that data into Watson Analytics (included with Watson social media tool) you can discover the drivers behind a discussion.

What the competition is doing right or wrong

The Christmas selling season is short but highly important. It can determine whether end-of-year-results shall be positive or negative. In a fast-moving market like retail it’s easy to miss a trick and be overtaken by a competitor. A strategic discount or offer can make all the difference. It is therefore essential that retailers keep abreast of successful innovations.

One of the ways to do this is by following social media and harnessing opinion, to discover if some clever initiative by a competitor is having real traction among consumers.  Watson Analytics for Social Media has a sentiment analysis feature that can determine if something is liked, or not.

Sort out your stock

January sales exist because retailers have overstocked certain items, and then need to sell them off as quickly as possible. The challenge for all is to reduce the amount of unsold stock. That means understanding what’s trending with the public.

Many years ago, in a hugely popular UK TV cookery programme, the chef used a then little-known, poorly-selling type of pan called an “omelette pan”. In the coming days, that pan became one of the most sought-after retail items in the UK.

Today, social media has taken the place of television, in terms of influence. Make sure you know what’s going on, and what people are talking about, at all times.

 Is your advertising working?

While customers spend a lot of money at Christmas, so do retailers – on advertising and marketing. Social media analysis can help you assess if you are leveraging good value from your media investments.

Is the message that you set out to achieve getting through to the right target audience – e.g. that you offer better value and a speedier delivery service? On social media, you’ll learn very quickly what that audience thinks of your public claims!

Room for improvement

As quickly as your customers are likely to become your advocates, they are also potentially your greatest enemy. Negative comments can impact upon online traffic and bricks-and-mortar businesses.

And, of course, some opinions, matter more than others. Ordinary individuals have become online, niche superstars whose review of a shopping experience can reach millions. Watson Analytics for Social Media reveals who are the greatest influencers around discussions. Reach out to them and you could, potentially, influence countless buying decisions.

Building customer loyalty

As I mentioned earlier, Christmas is a busy time for retailers. It can be a challenge – trying to satisfy as many people as possible before something negative goes viral.  However, it can also be an opportunity: you can harvest a huge amount of up-to-the-minute data that can have a positive impact on how you run your business.

Using Watson Analytics for Social Media allows you to analyse unstructured data – comments and opinions. Out of this you can create a goldmine of knowledge, which can influence your marketing, communications and social profiles, far beyond the holiday season.

After Christmas

This time of year is a great opportunity to try out Watson Analytics for Social Media. Customer activity and interactions, around shopping, peak over the Christmas period. You can therefore explore all kinds of topics and themes related to your retail business.

You are likely to discover a treasure trove of actionable data that will influence well beyond Christmas and the new year. So start analysing…

Technology Service Providers Sales Leader, Nordic

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