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- RESEARCH & AWARDS
For years, if you wanted to find out about what your customers were thinking you could use the traditional research methods – mostly surveys and focus groups. And you could hire some panels for new products.
It worked well, but the problem was that all the responses came in an environment that was something quite different from the shopper’s normal setting. You got answers to questions but never really knew “what do they say when I’m not listening?”
Are there ways to get the unvarnished truth?
The advent of social and digital media now allows retailers to acquire shopper feedback one-on-one through their own Facebook and Twitter accounts. These new methods of gauging sentiment are good and can be quantified somewhat, but they come with some underlying bias. After all, they had to “like” you first.
Now, the new frontier of research makes it possible to mine social data and get answers without having to ask the questions. And many new options are on the way. Just within the past month Facebook announced Graph Search – a new service that lets you search beyond your own pages to find product mentions or other remarks that might have been made elsewhere by anyone who may have ‘liked’ your page.
For a retailer, this is a huge database to have available (for example, Publix has more than 1.7 million Facebook ‘likes’). Simply enter your private label or product and see what your friends and their friends say about it. Want to check on the competition, too? Facebook is testing a change for their commercial users that will enable direct tracking of up to five competitive Facebook accounts. All of this is free by the way.
Twitter has a powerful search function that can seek out product mentions very quickly and easily. Using traditional web search can be effective, too. Google always has offered a blog search, and certainly Yelp can provide insights about what shoppers say about your store.
Another web-based – and free – service is Social Mention, a great brand tracking tool that provides quick measures of sentiment, passion, and reach. But one problem with do-it-yourself monitoring sites is that if your brand does not have a distinctive name, there can be a lot of clutter in the results. If it is a store name, adding the world “brand” helps narrow the search.
There are many additional do-it-yourself approaches that can provide good results for small and large retailers. But over the past year or two, dozens (maybe hundreds) of new companies have sprung up to help with data acquisition and analytics. They range from fairly inexpensive solutions such as Mention.netto progressively more full-featured approaches such as Sysomos, uberVU, Take 5 Solutions, and tracx (there are lots more).
Each offers increasing amounts of data analytics and resources along with the now popular buzz graphs (word clouds) and other visual tools. Most have fees, but they are modest. We have observed that many of these can be more cost-effective than traditional research and provide better qualitative takeaways about how your shoppers really feel.
So what to do? First, not surprisingly, is to determine what you need, what you want to know, and the type of analytics you require. Next is to determine your social KPIs.
This is the tricky part. It is a new concept that many are just getting their arms around. Do we measure sentiment, number of mentions, reposts, positive/negative comments, or just look for potential problems to solve?
As retailing continues the shift from mass media to one-on-one communication, making these decisions are key to understanding if your store brand is truly “liked.”
To paraphrase the old Nilsson song “Everybody’s talking at me [but] I don’t hear a word they’re saying.” For private label manufacturers and retailers, it’s time to find out.