Rick, a “veteran” farmer from Little Rock, Arkansas, is looking to take his produce to the big leagues and compete with the large retail players in his field. Rick was looking to, in his own words, “know rather than guess” how his market and possible customers would respond to his offerings. He also wanted to know whether he could successfully compete with the retailers that are already making progress. Rick chose to check these unknowns with his potential customers directly. He decided to tap into public social media channels, reviews and more, the all-time tell-all “wizard.” Why? Before we reach the reasons behind Rick’s decision, let’s start with a little background.
Today, at any given moment, e-commerce players are called into action. This market domain, which is surpassing every possible prediction, has become a vital consumer and leisure “go-to heaven.” Recent estimations predict that global e-commerce sales will top $7 trillion by 2025 (reaching $4.9 trillion in 2021). Needless to say, creating a connection with your customers has never been more important (or easy!). And this is thanks to one vast source of information: the internet, a source that's always readily available for your taking.
The Benefits of Public Web Data
When used correctly, data can provide retailers with the hows, whys, and wheres — all of which can help tailor the right connection and the right experience for customers. Web data provides answers to what can make customers buy more of a certain product or keep buying it. There are a number of web data points that can directly link you to customers’ sentiments — i.e., help you know rather than guess their genuine thoughts and requests.
Consumer Reviews: Consumers’ Thoughts and Demands Go Live
Consumer reviews can probably address any question you have about your customers, starting with the whats and moving on to everything else. These reviews are probably the most valuable sentiment data that any digital retail business can tap into, collect and analyze. It's with this data that you can hear directly from consumers what exactly they wish to buy, what their likes and dislikes are, what they want to improve in a product, and what offer would assist them the most. This, and much more, are readily available for online retailers. A good example of this is a company involved in selling portable speakers. By scanning industrywide customer reviews, the company may learn that a large majority of consumers appreciate speakers that do more than the average speaker. For instance, customers prefer speakers that:
- are waterproof;
- have a long battery life (24 hours-plus); and
- are purpose-built for outdoor use.
Meanwhile, a fair percentage of customers dislike:
- larger devices;
- complex setup and Bluetooth connectivity; and
- speakers that don’t have “sound mix” options (e.g., equalizers, bass dominance, etc.).
This directly collected customer feedback data helped the company navigate and develop speakers that are specifically linked to consumers’ demands, thus ensuring that they will most likely purchase these speakers.
Assessing Customers’ Mood and Direction
Public social media channels provide all of us with more than just valuable information. They can actually connect any missing link or element that digital retail businesses can implement to improve the overall consumer experience. For example, product video reviews or unboxing videos have become the "go-to" popular place to evaluate a product.
By scanning videos, posts and threads for recurring "social sentiment indicators," businesses can start linking the pieces together. Why? For example, if a certain part of a product, such as a cable or a connector, is missing, and users keep indicating that this affects their overall product experience, a business can add the missing item and even communicate through social media. This shows that it has listened to its customers and changed its approach based on the feedback. Doing so can change the entire picture for that disappointed customer.
Search Engine Revelation
We're all well aware of search engines' multiple superpowers. The way customers interact with search engines can become a huge indicator for an important sentiment. After all, most consumers' journeys begin with a search query. When those are aggregated and analyzed, a clear picture that reflects a real-time customer reality can be painted. So, for example, a company operating in the automobile industry may discover that consumers in the US are searching for the following:
- Are electric vehicles (EVs) really cheaper than gas?
- What are the tax breaks offered?
- What's the most popular electric car in my country?
Looking at these questions, consumers' overall interests emerge as well as their confusion or lack of knowledge. This can highlight the fact that not enough information is shared in this space, and more is needed to clearly outline the benefits of an electric car. This insight can help EV companies generate the right kind of educational content that directly addresses customers’ concerns or interests.
Competitor Listing Analysis — Competitive Edge Enhanced
A rich source for public consumer sentiment can be analyzing competitor listing performance data. This can include, for example, seasonal sales trends, correlations between promotions, sellthrough rates (STRs), seller ratings, comparison tables, and more. These valuable data points reflect a lot more than one may expect. They can tell a lot about what consumers think of a certain service provider, what affects their positive or negative view, and what makes customers purchase a certain item over another. Sometimes a correlation can be found between two data points that point to unplanned purchase decisions, such as a sudden spike in sales and frequent price-point fluctuations, or a price-point fluctuation change in a seller’s ratings that corresponds with higher-than-usual clickthrough rates (CTRs).
The Bottom Line: Consumer Sentiment Data is More Than Just a North Star
Being able to collect consumer sentiment data can assist any business in any market sector in its ability to address customers' demands, wishes or feedback head-on. Whether it's by improving a product, adding a service, or creating more educational marketing content, this valuable data will ensure that businesses remain connected to their customers' hearts and minds as well as to their loyalty.
Or Lenchner is the CEO of Bright Data, a web data platform.
Related story: Why Data Management is Key to Any Successful Loyalty Program
Prior to his role as CEO at Bright Data, Lenchner founded and managed several web-based businesses, developing digital assets and online marketing programs. Initially joining Bright Data as head of product development, Lenchner’s career and evolvement at the company has been driven by his firm belief in a transparent, ethical-by-design web environment that contributes to an open, competitive market benefitting both businesses and society as a whole.