A recent column explored the potential impact of social media on retail by describing campaigns designed to take advantage of customers’ activity on Facebook. The goal was to leverage social interactions to amplify a positive shopping experience across their network. With social commerce, most retailers see their goal as building engagement and providing customer service rather than putting a storefront on Facebook.
Meanwhile, marketers and planners have been analyzing the massive amounts of data being generated by all of us on social platforms. Social media conversations revolve around people, places, topics, products and events. This word of mouth can be analyzed to better understand the impact of campaigns, evaluate the success of new releases, or plan when seasonal products should be promoted.
A leader in this field is Walmart which recently bought Silicon Valley startup Kosmix converting it into @WalmartLabs. On the social commerce side, this is leading to some interesting projects like the recently released Shopycat - the social gift finder which mines your friend’s Facebook profile to recommend gifts. However, among their goals is to “mine the social firehose in the context of retail,” leading to timely information about where shoppers are spending their time on Black Friday, and the hottest holiday toys. It also leads to some actionable business intelligence. The example given by founder Venky Harinarayanis of a Walmart buyer in Bentonville, AR, trying to predict when to take delivery of football merchandise for stores in Wisconsin. Monitoring the data from social conversations can also help Walmart find breakout products.
As a marketing category, Word of Mouth accounted for $1.54 billion in advertising spending in 2008 according to PQ Media. Word of Mouth is defined as an alternative marketing strategy supported by research and technology which encourages consumers to dialog about products. It is one of the few categories that continued to grow through the recession, and 30% of the total marketing spend is coming from Food and Drink brands. Mining social media data represents a powerful tool to measure the effectiveness of this advertising.
The agency that specializes in social media monitoring for the wine industry is Vintank, which recently completed its purchase of Cruvee to rename its service Vintank Social Connect. Vintank monitors nearly a million online conversations about wine each day and has been an active champion of the benefits of social media for wineries. Vintank’s service is set up to help wineries listen to conversations about their brands, their region, or their competitors. A winery that is paying attention this way can respond to a picture about sharing a bottle in celebration by wishing their customer a happy birthday and offering a VIP visit to the winery. Wineries and brand owners can also use Vintank’s Social Connect to measure the impact of marketing campaigns by establishing a baseline before the campaign and tracking the impact as their marketing moves the needle on important keywords.
The opportunity from social media monitoring for retailers is slightly different as retailers have an opportunity to adapt their product selection more quickly in response to emerging trends. Imagine tracking the hottest drink brands on social media to match your product merchandizing with timely information about consumer buzz. We are just beginning to explore this new world of retail experiences for the connected customer, but it is full of exciting possibilities.