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Capitalize on top trends disrupting the retail industry with social listening

Siddharth Rathore

September 2, 20229 min read

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Ever since shopping went ‘omnichannel,’ no two customer journeys have been the same. With no fixed starting and ending points and multiple drop-off points in a purchase journey, retailers often fail to strike a chord with customers, leading to incomplete transactions and abandoned carts.

Customer Retail Journey-01

The graphic shows different stages of a typical customer journey and how to connect with customers at each stage.

Customers, especially digital natives, have high expectations when it comes to their online shopping experience. Although you may already be providing a great in-store experience, it’s time for you to replicate the same experience online. 

Humanizing the brand digitally creates a connection that increases purchases, builds loyalty, and reduces churn. And with modern technology such as social listening, retail brands can turn each touchpoint into a sales opportunity with minimal effort. 

Social listening is the analysis of real-time online conversations to understand consumers’ feelings and attitudes toward your brand, industry, and topics of interest. You can also tune into conversations about your competitors to inform your business decisions. 

Social listening tools that use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze petabytes of unstructured data from different social channels to gather insights that help you:

  1. Improve digital strategy and in-store offerings

  2. Protect brand reputation

  3. Shift from templatized to personalized communication

Why should retail brands care about social listening?

How do you deal with customer complaints and changing expectations while staying ahead of competitors? This question must have crossed your mind several times as a retail manager. 

According to a McKinsey study, the pandemic has expedited the digitization of brands by seven years. Although customers have gotten used to shopping online, they crave the human touch. To fulfill this expectation, retail stores need to become experience centers rather than just functioning as transaction centers. 

You must reassess your business operations and strategies to match shifting customer expectations. But how?

 With the ever-evolving digital landscape, invest in the right partners to drive your digital strategy. Be present on multiple social channels, and expand your reach beyond established channels to wherever your customers are. And you need a unified customer experience management platform (Unified-CXM) that can weave customer data from all touchpoints into a unified and easy-to-understand view.

The first step to achieving this unified view is listening to real-time customer feedback across channels, locations, and devices. This empowers you with actionable noise-free data obtained after slicing and dicing quintillion bytes of data from online conversations. 

Enabling social listening across customer touchpoints helps you identify customers’ changing needs and create a modern, frictionless digital shopping journey while keeping potential crises at bay. 

What’s going on in the retail industry? 

The retail sector has been at the forefront of many significant market disruptions. For example, the pandemic accelerated the growth of e-commerce, and the retail industry has been playing catch up. Here are key changes:

What’s going on in the retail industry

Modern retail consumers use social media to research products, raise support queries, and make purchases directly. 

Retail companies often lack customer insights, hindering their ability to analyze and innovate product and brand strategies. A recent Forrester study — commissioned by Sprinklr — found that 40% of organizations could not aggregate and use customer data, despite their need for effective customer insights. Thus, brands require the right tool to filter and prioritize the right conversations. 

According to McKinsey, the strongest players would quickly scale up and strengthen their digital capabilities to invest and leap forward, even if the window of opportunity is limited. 

How social listening will pave the way forward in retail

1. Identify customer needs and drive value

The key differentiator for successful retail brands is their understanding of their customers. Since customer needs are ever-changing, how does one keep up with them? 

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Data helps brands analyze their customers at every touchpoint, in-person and online. 

And AI lets brands keep a pulse on customer demographics, buyer sentiment, and buying behavior at those touchpoints by leveraging data. It empowers retail brands to innovate product and brand strategies based on customer feedback, thus helping you better cater to their needs. It enables you to understand why shoppers did not complete their checkout or their pressing needs you might not have accounted for. 

Not only that, but it also allows store managers to take ownership of a store’s success by identifying native demand and trends and resolving and routing customer issues at the right time. But to do this, understanding local sentiment and in-store experience is critical. 

How social listening helps

Social listening enables you to listen, learn, and act upon relevant customer conversations, helping you circumvent the lack of visibility into local sentiment and in-store experiences. Listening backed by AI identifies customer sentiment — positive, negative, or neutral — from multiple channels, no matter how subtle, and lets you connect with your customers wherever they are.

Social listening also provides local, regional, and global stores’ location-specific data like customer reviews, star ratings, and customer experience scores, aiding in meticulous decision-making.

Sentiment analysis lets your teams quickly detect poor in-store shopping experiences and resolve customer concerns. It fosters good customer relationships and loyalty by allowing personalized communication. 

A sudden spike in negative sentiment alerts you to a potential PR crisis, giving you enough time to respond to your detractors proactively and protect your brand reputation. Also, studying competitors’ negative sentiment trends helps you gain a competitive edge, leading to improved customer experiences.

You can also analyze metrics such as average customer ratings, sentiment trends, top-performing content, and so on for a particular store location and against your competitors. These insights can be further drilled down to view better, more granular insights — by looking at each tweet or Facebook message.

2. Improve the digital shopping experience 

Retail stores are no longer the final stop in a shopper’s journey. They are just one part of the overall customer journey. 

59% of consumers said they use Google to research a purchase they plan to make offline. 

The changing customer expectations and widespread adoption of automation and AI by businesses during the pandemic call for a unified social presence. Retail brands that once depended on brick-and-mortar store sales and face-to-face interactions are moving to digital.

3

71% of in-store shoppers who use smartphones for purchase-related research say their device has become essential to their in-store experience. 

Retailers can take advantage of this consumer behavior by providing in-store digital experiences such as virtual assistance, store location, and product information on the go. This information can be present on channels like your website, mobile app, social pages, etc.

How social listening helps

Retailers need to double down their social media presence and be available where their customers like to shop. 

Social listening lets you monitor your customers’ preferred channels for shopping. It provides valuable data like engagement levels on different earned media sources like blogs, websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like. Use this data to increase store awareness and create and boost content organically.  

Listening helps you track top used themes and keywords related to your brand. To provide the best in-store experience virtually, make it easy for your customers to reach you by ranking for top keywords on Google My Business. 

In a Google survey, 74% of in-store shoppers agreed they searched for store-related details such as the location of the closest store, in-stock items, opening hours, directions, wait times, and contact information. Providing such information upfront improves customer experience. 

In addition, listening to consumer conversations helps you identify leads, engage with them, and outperform your local competitors. Sprinklr’s Location Insights feature enables you to benchmark against your competitor locations based on crucial CX parameters. 

3. Manage brand reputation

For any organization, a PR crisis is a matter of “when” and not “if.” 

73% of respondents in a Deloitte survey revealed that they feel vulnerable to a corporate reputational crisis. Yet only 39% said they had a plan in place to address a crisis ahead of time. 

Since bad reputation and revenue are interrelated, it becomes critical to understand the risks that can lead to a crisis.

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Most retail companies don’t have access to early warning systems to detect industry and brand-relevant issues like organized retail crime, store safety, geopolitical crisis, or labor shortages. Brands exhibit knee-jerk reactions, which may only worsen the situation if caught unawares and without the proper authorization to respond to a crisis.

Your brand reputation can also suffer from non-compliance with regulations, inconsistent messaging, layoffs, and unethical conduct of employees.

Additionally, siloed systems in your tech stack can make establishing governance across channels and users challenging due to point solution chaos.

How social listening helps

95% of business leaders feel they are far from establishing a fool-proof crisis management plan. 

If an issue is recognized before it becomes a full-blown PR crisis, it’s possible to initiate damage control and reduce reputational risk. 

A unified social listening tool offers retailers a scalable framework to detect crises by scanning large volumes of unstructured data in real time. It automates ticket allocation and routing for prompt and appropriate responses. 

Powered by AI, a listening tool filters the noise out of unstructured data and triggers relevant alerts for controlled authorization and better decision-making. This allows you to effectively handle external communication on owned channels and press releases during a crisis, all from a single platform. 

Once the crisis has subsided, you can use listening dashboards to listen to conversations and make informed decisions about producing content or collaborating with influencers and media personalities to repair the damage.

Harness the power of social listening

Retail brands can no longer be content with just monitoring customer conversations and associated sentiment — they need to be able to pinpoint their causes. Sentiment detection offers deep insights into demographics, preferred social channels, etc. 

An ideal listening tool should recognize peculiar language or slang that can go unnoticed by human agents. This helps improve the routing of customer complaints to the right agent, facilitating faster resolutions. 

And it’s easy to overlook visual mentions of your brand like logos, images, etc. Therefore, the tool should consider visual media and give accurate data on top themes after analyzing consumer discussions. 

AI-based social listening tools like Sprinklr’s Social Listening let you monitor locally relevant content, trends, and customer reviews. Stay ahead of the curve by surfacing conversations around your customers’ unmet needs on earned and owned media and monitoring customer experiences across all modern channels.

3 Steps to Transform Your Customer Experience with AI-Driven Insights

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