Listening in on shopper conversations....and acting upon them

17 January 2012

Dan Hawker

Dan Hawker

Former Head of Tobacco, Wholesale & Retail

If you could have people listening in on shopper conversations at every shelf and in every store holding your products, but you only had to pay for a handful, would you do it?

That's the potential of services such as NetBase.

These services trawl the different social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) devouring information coming from all the conversations that are happening about your products and your competitors' products. They remember every single conversation forever. They also have special linguistic capabilities that account for the fact that not all of us speak the same language and not all of us remember to write properly (nuff said innit?).

NetBase uses the rather confusingly named NLP (Natural Language Processing, not Neuro-Linguistic Programming), and a vast amount of data storage. After trawling through the social media channels, it then categorises those sentiments into various categories of good and bad, casual or intense, and so on.

So as a Consumer Products company, you have a workbench that enables you to track the following in real-time:

  • What the market is feeling about your products
  • How strongly consumers feel about them
  • What your  share of their attention span is
  • What factors are driving their feelings about your products and your competitors products
  • Where the conversations are happening - which stores, prominent locations are associated with you and your competitors

And don't forget, the numbers here are staggering and growing exponentially. As at late 2011:

  • Over 200m tweets a day (
  • Big events drive massive real time activity on twitter (MTV Video Music Awards registered almost 9,000 tweets per second)
  • 800m users on fb (
  • Over 50% (>400m) of fb users use it every day
  • 53% of Twitter users recommend companies or products in their tweets (ROI Research for Performance, June 2010)

So there's a load of data out there, some of it about my products, and I can use something like NetBase to track it in real-time. So what? What happens next?

In a world of information overload, it's tempting to ignore it for the time being! So what if Martha from Connecticut doesn't like the colour of our new shampoo bottle? We have a perfectly good process for figuring out what overall the market wants and what we should do about it - it's called marketing and new product development.

Well, your competitors care, and they're doing something about it.

Imagine if, as a consumer, you've had a bad experience that bothered you enough to tweet about. These days, wouldn't you have an EXPECTATION of a response? And if that expectation wasn't met, how would you be disposed towards that brand? Now imagine if you were happy about a product, and cared enough to tweet about it. What if that went ignored?

And these consumers are listening to what their friends are saying, and basing their decisions on that input.

It's back to the old-fashioned NPS principles, but with sharper tools. If you can spot the people that other people are listening to most, and you can make them passionate advocates of your products, your ability to influence your NPS score is amplified. And that leads to more and better quality revenue and profits.

OK, so I can improve the size and quality of my profits more easily, what next?

To make the best use of the amazing capabilities available, the first step is to look at the people and process changes that need to happen. It's no use just giving people in traditional roles the new tools and saying "off you go then". They'll just carry on doing what they did yesterday. You need to determine the right organisational and process changes that need to happen in your organisation, and make them happen with the right sponsorship.

Once you've figured that out, embed those changes ASAP. You need to get it in place now, because the amount of great info and new capabilities is growing exponentially. So embedding the new, scalable organisation and processes is imperative before the size of the task becomes ever bigger.

I'd like to write more, but I'm off to post and tweet this blog now, and who knows, maybe it will be RT'd a few times under the various hashtags that I and my followers choose to use! #CPG #SAP #IN #socialmedia #hurryupandgetitdone


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