Improving Customer Experience by Listening and Responding to Social Media

Improving Customer Experience by Listening and Responding to Social Media

Maya Swedowsky

In this week’s Nielsen Online Webinar, “Consumers in Control: Social Media Strategies for Retailers and Brands,” I will be highlighting two key social media opportunities for Retailers: listening and engaging.

No one can deny just how prevalent social media has become, from Facebook to Twitter, its meteoric growth is hard to ignore*. But why is it absolutely imperative that retailers pay attention and get involved? The answer is simple, and dates back to pre-Internet days: the purchase consideration process has always been a social endeavor. Before the advent of social media, a shopper may have consulted a couple friends and family members before making a purchase. Today, shoppers’ networks have gone from being composed of just a handful of people to hundreds, if not thousands of people, and many of them probably strangers. Social media has not only transformed the research and purchase consideration phase, but it also provides shoppers with a platform to advocate for the products and stores they love. Advocacy has always existed, but social media has made this stage even more critical, amplifying the size of the audience reached.

By tapping into these conversations, Retailers can gain insight into what’s happening online, as well as what’s happening offline. What are shoppers saying about your customer service and return policy? What do they think about the selection of products you offer (both in-house brands as well as big name brands)? At a corporate level, how do shoppers feel about your sustainability policies or community relations?

To bring the concept of listening to life for the Retail industry, we analyzed online discussion about the private label lines of three club stores: Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s. Although, on average, private label discussion tends to account for less than 5 percent of club store buzz (more commonly discussed topics include price, membership fees and name brand products), we felt that the topic warranted closer inspection, given the tenuous economy. When we honed in on private label buzz for the three selected club stores, we found that price and comparisons to big name brands were the key topics driving discussion. We also found that Baby Care was the most frequently referenced product category.

While BJ’s yielded the largest share of discussion about price and Baby Care items, it also generated the lowest levels of quality discussion (see Figure 1, callouts A-B). This is not to say that shoppers felt negatively toward BJ’s quality, it just wasn’t the driving factor for choosing BJ’s brand diapers and baby care products. By contrast, buzz about Costco’s private label line, Kirkland, focused almost equally on price and quality (see Figure 1, callouts A-B) and less on comparisons to brand name products than BJ’s (see Figure 1, callout C). So, what does this mean? It points to the possibility that shoppers may not just choose Kirkland products because they are cheaper versions of their brand name counterparts, instead, Kirkland may be on its way to becoming a brand with an independent identity as opposed to just another store brand.

club price store buzz

Source: Nielsen BuzzMetrics

Note: n =100 messages for each retailer, timeframe = Q1 2009; topics accounting for less than 3% of discussion have been removed for ease of viewing

This is just one example of the types of insights we can glean from listening to social media. Sign up here and join me for the July 15 Webinar to hear more about the barriers to entry and opportunities identified through this private label case study and how you, as a Retailer, can tap into social media to better understand and meet your customers’ needs.

*Visitation to is up 1,448 percent YOY (May 08 vs. May 09); number of visitors to Facebook has increased 190 percent YOY (May 08 vs. May 09)