Social Media Provides Retail Customer Visibility

According to Kitewheel’s “The State of the Customer Journey” report, 48% of all customer journey interactions occur in social channels. And in the “UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper” report, 34% of consumers state that social media influences their purchases.

Social media has given brands the unparalleled ability to interact directly with their customer base, says the Study report. Though utilizing social media to promote brand and product messaging has never been more accessible and consumers regularly utilize social media as part of their customer journey, most retailers have identified a need to improve upon their current social media offerings.

Customer Experience Opportunities (Social Media)

  • Opportunity to improve     69%
  • No plans to improve     29%
  • Not applicable     2%

In the words of the Business Retail Partners report, sponsored by Experian Data Quality, as edited and summarized here, “ Thanks to the advent of online shopping we now live in a world of constant consumption. With online access, the consumer can buy nearly anything she wants, at any time, anywhere. And social media provides retailers with unprecedented visibility into their customer base, says the report.

The report has identified five key areas where retailers should be utilizing social media to improve the customer journey, discussed in the continuing report.


Shopping has become more about the experience than the product, fueled by the view that experiences make people happier than the possession of material objects. This concept has become increasingly popular in the last few years and is reflected in consumer behavior.

           69% of retailers see opportunities to utilize social media to enhance the customer experience

Social networks may drive only a fraction of online retail sales, but they provide retailers with unique and effective ways to reach and influence the best customers. Social commerce is not simply transactional, it is more about how social networks can influence shoppers, and is a great way to build a personal, trusting relationship, says the report.

Based on BRP’s recent surveys, more than two-thirds of retailers see opportunities to improve the social media customer experience


One of the ways consumers utilize social media is to interact with the brand to learn more information about the brand and products, but most retailers indicate that their current social media offerings need improvement. Retailers are developing plans for social media to be an important part of the future, as 89% of respondents indicate they have, or plan to have, social media options available to customers. Three- quarters of the retailers currently support customer interaction via social media, but 81% of those retailers feel that the current interaction needs improvement, says the report.

            75% of retailers support customer interaction via social media

Customers want responses to questions, feedback and complaints quickly or they feel slighted. A study by Lithium Technologies found that more than half of customers who ask a question of a brand on Twitter expect a response within the hour. Having a solid social media strategy, staffing and leveraging the right technology tools are essential to meeting customer expectations.

Customer Interaction with the Brand

Social media

  • Utilize and works well      14%
  • Utilize and needs improvement      61
  • Utilize within 12 months     7
  • Utilize in 1-3 years      7
  • No plans     11

Source: BRP, October 2016


Brand endorsements from influential customers are a great way to generate positive exposure for a brand or product. These advocates can raise brand awareness and, ultimately, boost sales. Tapping brand advocates may not be easy, but it is likely that your brand already has some unofficial ambassadors who can be encouraged to expand their brand endorsement, says the report.

            59% of retailers plan to utilize brand advocacy/ social media endorsement as a source for identifying their most valuable customers within three years

The first step is to identify your current brand advocates. In the Customer Experience/ Unified Commerce Survey, retailers were asked about utilizing brand advocacy/ social media endorsement as a source for identifying their most valuable customers, says the report. Currently 28% of retailers utilize this method with an additional 31% planning to utilize this within three years.

Most Valuable Customers Identification Methods

Brand advocacy/social media endorsement

  • Utilize and works well      7%
  • Utilize and needs improvement      21
  • Utilize within 12 months      12
  • Utilize in 1-3 years      19
  • No plans      41

Source: BRP, October 2016


To curate brand advocates, retailers need to ensure that customers, especially the vocal and influential ones, are satisfied. 55% of online shoppers tell friends and family when they are dissatisfied with a brand or purchase, according to the 2016 “UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper” report.

            59% of retailers utilize social media comments as a means of measuring customer satisfaction

According to the Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey, 59% of retailers utilize social media comments as a means of measuring customer satisfaction. Many retailers, says the report, feel that their social media efforts are not optimal, as 81% of those retailers using it think their current methods need improvement.

Customer Satisfaction Measurement

Social media comments

  • Utilize and works well      11%
  • Utilize and needs improvement     48
  • Plan to utilize within 12 months      16
  • Plan to utilize in 1-3 years     14
  • No plans to utilize     11
Source: BRP, October 2016


The quantity of data available to retailers from social media interactions has never been greater. These interactions produce data that can be instrumental when predicting demand, informing buying and planning decisions and tailoring the customer experience. Knowing the customer better than the competition empowers retailers to create personalized promotions and marketing campaigns.

            60% of retailers capture customer feedback from social media and online comments

Observing and analyzing social media discussions and trends across many communities is often referred to as “crowdsourcing.” Social media crowdsourcing is a powerful tool for discerning customer sentiment about a retailer’s products and services and offering retailers the ability to identify customer shopping trends.

The challenge with social media analytics is that it is still relatively new. Therefore, there are very few “tried and true” tools and best practices for retailers to use as a guide.

Currently, 60% of retailers indicate that they capture customer feedback from social media and online comments. However, retailers are still just scratching the surface when it comes to leveraging social media content for planning purposes.

According to BRP’s 2015 Merchandise Planning Benchmark Survey, product development remains the largest area for social media data utilization with 23% currently utilizing it and 29% planning to use within two years. Many retailers don’t yet see the value in utilizing social media data for allocation assistance (only 31% have any plans for utilizing social media data in assisting with allocation), as understanding customer insight would seem to be important for re- allocating merchandise.

Customer Information Data Sources

  • Customer insight (from social media, online comments, etc.)
  • Utilize and works well      4%
  • Utilize and needs improvement      56
  • Utilize within 12 months      9
  • Utilize in 1-3 years      11
  • No plans to utilize      20

Source: BRP, October 2016

Social media offers retailers the opportunity to listen to their customers, understand who they are, and leverage their feedback based on comments, likes of products with similar affinity, and interactions with the brand. This provides valuable information to retailers as they continue to focus on enhancing the customer experience.

Concluding, the report notes that retailer investment and focus on social media will undoubtedly continue to grow, given that social media has become part of consumers’ day-to-day lives and it provides retailers with unprecedented visibility into their customers’ desires. It provides a venue that allows retailers to directly communicate with their customers and it is an extremely powerful tool for collecting and using customer insights to improve planning decisions.

Social Media to Facilitate Planning (Percent of Respondents)


Currently use

Plan to use within 2 years

Plan to use within 3-5 years

No plans to use

Product development





Strategic planning





Promotional planning





Assortment planning





Sales planning










Allocation assistance





Source: BRP, October 2016

The future of social networks and the future of retail will remain intimately connected, and the key areas where retailers should be utilizing social media as a means to improve upon the customer journey are Experience, Interaction, Endorsement, Satisfaction and Insight, concludes the report.”

For additional information about this study, please visit Experian here.


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