Social and mobile. They’re no longer emerging technologies, they’re here to stay and they’re changing the way people shop. As IBM’s Vice President for Global Industry Leader for Retail Jill Puleri pointedly stated in her opening remarks at the first afternoon keynote at Retail’s BIG Show, “The revolution is over, and the customer is in control.”
Not any of this was news for the retailers packed into the Javits Convention Center North Hall. But much of the data from IBM’s annual global consumer survey was. Tallying responses from 26,000 shoppers from across the world, the results covered everything from holiday purchasing habits to hot topics like showrooming. Buried beneath the data is the “transitional consumers” group consisting primarily of the highly sought-after millennials. Puleri emphasized the onus is on the industry to understand how to listen to these tech-savvy shoppers by learning to translate data found within what she called the “digital exhaust of commerce.” As renowned author Erik Qualman explained, combing through and leveraging brand sentiment across the social media landscape – from the 12 terabytes of daily data created on Twitter to blog posts and everything in between – is the essence of socialnomics.
Qualman’s status as a social media guru can be attributed to his social media revolution video. As he quipped in his opening remarks, when the video was first created, “I didn’t think I would have to update it every two months.” But that comes with the territory in the social media landscape, which has helped change word-of-mouth into world-of-mouth. He admitted that the thought of finding the hypodermic needle to pinpoint the right sentiment and drive success can be overwhelming. But Qualman stressed it starts with having the right talent within – with everyone from in-store associates to executives at the top searching for, posting and understanding the content that’s out there – to improve the customer experience overall.
So what does being “flaw-some” really mean? As he noted with several contextual examples from across the corporate spectrum, it comes down to embracing communication crises that many have traditionally shied away from. A famously scathing tweet incorrectly posted to the official Chrysler Twitter account generated flack from all sides. As Qualman explained, the way in which the company responded nearly outweighed the negativity of the tweet itself. But many companies in the same situation have adapted, turning a social mishap to their benefit or seizing an opportunity to craft a word-of-mouth masterpiece. From Wheat Thins monitoring Twitter to reward a hungry customer to the Red Cross creatively and instantly reacting to a worker’s unintended tweet, potential social media crises, when reacted to efficiently, can be turned in to a positive PR dream that money can’t buy.
In their closing remarks, both Puleri and Qualman admitted it’s easy to talk about it on-stage but it can be a huge internal undertaking. However, the work is a necessity in this hyper-connected world where consumers are smarter than ever. Qualman summed it up perfectly: “Negatives are a good thing. Turn them into a positive and convert these people into your biggest ambassadors. That’s being flaw-some.”