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What Are The Top Three Social Media Signals That Will Change Assortment Planning? Part Two

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Last week I cued up a conversation about social media. In a time when we’re all collecting massive amounts of customer information from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, how can we turn that sea of data in actionable intelligence – particularly as it relates to honing a smarter product mix? As a result, I put out the question, “What are the top three social media signals that will change assortment planning? “

The first person to weigh in was my partner, Paula Rosenblum. Her initial (and funny/sarcastic) response of “None? ” got the debate machine rolling internally here at RSR. Nikki then jumped in to share some of the ones she hears retailers ask about. But she went on to add that the challenge isn’t always about collecting that information, but rather, how these sort of things trend over time.

In her words, “It’s about connecting social media signals to demand trends in enough time to do something about it. “

That got Brian going, got Paula going, even a few readers got involved – we were off to the races! And at the end of the day, the three we agreed will matter the most – the soonest – were:

  • Likes
  • Shares
  • Reviews/Ratings

But here’s the thing. Until these can be connected to something actionable, what’s the point?

And here’s where full disclosure comes in.

For me, I kicked this thing off with a highly skeptical point of view. I’ve seen some retailers do very cool things with social media, but almost every single one that comes to mind has been using the medium for communication TO the consumer: “We’re running a promotion “… “We’re having a special event “… We’d like to thank you for your loyalty. “

The few exceptions that I’ve seen that work in a listening fashion – so far, mind you – have required very specific prioritization on Social Media listening and dedication to execution within those channels (read: investment in staffing). Further, due to simple logistics, most tend to focus on the meta-user level. For example, DSW has a person in place to monitor the shoe reviews its dedicated “fashionistas ” post on YouTube. As far back as 2012 I wrote about how great it was that when a DSW power-reviewer had a terrible customer experience and posted a video talking about it on YouTube, DSW was able to contact the consumer, make her whole, and due to their rapid and satisfactory response, she volunteered to take the video down. That’s fantastic – because they never even asked her to. But keep in mind this all transpired because 1) they had the infrastructure in place to monitor such signals and 2) she had received thousands of views within 48 hours of posting her video: thousands. Would that have worked if she hadn’t been a meta-user, and just shared a Facebook status with 129 friends? And was it ever going to affect assortment?

Warby Parker also has staff allocated to listening in, and to date is one of the only cases I’m aware of where every Facebook message they receive is answered just as it would in a call center (if you know of other brands who do this, please do let me know!). That’s impressive stuff, but again, how would that translate to 5 close friends all deciding to “like ” a certain eyeglass frame without reaching out in a more customer service-like fashion?

And that’s where the real rub is for me right now. I don’t think we’re yet at a point when product assortment can be made smarter by such things as ratings/reviews, shares, or likes. Yet. I’d love to be wrong, but as our internal conversation teased out, customer sentiment changes so quickly, that even if you can collect this data, is the intelligence there yet to do anything meaningful about it in time?

The good news is, we know it will be. The real question is: when?

And if you are interested in our take on what’s shaping assortment planning right now, please do check out our latest benchmark report on the topic, Assortment and Planning: Changing Times, New Opportunities.



Newsletter Articles February 3, 2015
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