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Capturing the Value of Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Groupon – Social media sites grab the headlines as their valuations continue to skyrocket based on the perception that these sites significantly influence how we work, play, and shop today.  But how influential are they, really?

We know about Facebook and what a HUGE country its participants could now form; its growth continues unabated.  More people spending more time on games, vacation pictures, and stalking former flames. 

Twitter is truly a new media outlet with fast-breaking, world-changing news being tweeted 24x7.  Look at how Twitter helped to bring down an entrenched dictator in power for over 40 years in Egypt to get a sense of what unfettered access to information can do – even if it is only 140 characters at a time.  In its less world-changing form it is also a source of ongoing banality that can numb even the most avid tweeter.

And Groupon – yes Groupon continues to grow quickly as well. With its most recent foray into China the company is in 43 countries and has 51M subscribers (source:  Economist) but with other group coupon sites springing up like weeds in springtime, its competitive advantage has been severely eroded.  The concept has, however, changed shopping in ways that weren’t even anticipated only three years ago.

So what’s a retailer to do?  And perhaps, more importantly, how can retailers make money in social media? 

There are those who argue, like Brian Dun, CEO of Best Buy that monetization is really beside the point – social media is the new national water cooler and retailers need to be part of the conversation.   There are others who perceive social media to be all hype and no sales lift and so have opted out  completely.  And there are others who are gamely trying to figure out how to turn these new ways of connecting with shoppers into top line magic.

Retailers MUST be involved in social media.  While the direct ROI is still unclear, one can argue that the sheer value associated with listening to your customers’ perception of your brand extends beyond traditional ROI calculations.  In addition, the ability to respond to a disgruntled customer and turn them into a fan is invaluable (and they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on…).

Social media represents an opportunity to engage with customers in an authentic and direct fashion; to cut through all the noise and win shopper loyalty.

So retailers need tools to help them hear what their customers are saying about them on social media sites.  But it goes beyond mere listening, retailers need to take action on those comments, whether they’re good or bad, to truly engage with their shoppers.

Cisco’s Social Miner product, which won the Retail Touch Points Innovation Award at the National Retail Federation (NRF) show, enables retailers to not only listen to what customers are saying in social media but extends to prioritizing the information, and feeding the appropriate responses into a contact center workflow.  So retailers can systematically and consistently respond to customers who tweet, blog, or publish Facebook feedback. 

By using these types of tools, retailers can provide that authentic and direct interaction that turns a disgruntled customer into a fan for life.

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