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April 10, 2024

Unlocking the Power of Social Media Data to Connect with E-Commerce Customers

Zohar Gilad

(PopTika/Shutterstock)

When “The Social Dilemma” documentary came out in 2020, consumers called for a mass exodus from social media and the end of user data capture. While opening the public’s eyes to the inner workings of social media was important, it failed to show the benefits of online personalization that wouldn’t be possible without data collection.

It turns out the rally to leave social media didn’t stand. Today, more than 84% of adults around the world are on social platforms, according to Datareportal, and more than a quarter of those users say they leverage it for inspiration on things to do and buy. This is good news for e-commerce companies who want to better understand their customers and surface personalized recommendations that are most likely to convert. Let’s explore how social media data such as follower demographics, post engagement and geographic locations can help businesses better understand their target audience to improve engagement and boost sales.

Social Media Data Collection Strategies

Knowing that a user has a dog and never misses a CrossFit WOD helps sites surface relevant content for them. For an e-commerce brand, that may mean showing them ads for dog crates instead of cat trees and protein powder instead of Oreos. Companies can utilize various data collection tactics on social media to gain valuable insights about their customers, including analytics, polls and surveys, behavior metrics and social listening tools.

  1. Social media analytics: By analyzing data from social media platforms, companies can gain insights into customer behavior, preferences and sentiment. Social media analytics tools like Hootsuite and Buffer provide information on metrics such as engagement rates, reach, impressions and audience demographics. This helps retailers understand how customers interact with their brand and identify trends or patterns so they can surface relevant content.

    (REDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock)

  2. Polls and surveys: Companies can conduct polls and surveys on social platforms to gather customer feedback about specific products, services or overall satisfaction. This method provides both quantitative and qualitative data to understand customer preferences, needs and pain points. It’s also a way to connect with customers on a personal level by asking for their feedback, further fostering a relationship with them.
  3. Behavior metrics: Collecting and analyzing behavior metrics, such as click-through rates, conversion rates and purchase history, helps companies understand customer buying patterns and preferences. This data can inform personalized marketing campaigns, improve product recommendations and optimize overall customer experience.
  4. Social listening tools: Social listening tools, like Brand Watch and Meltwater, allow companies to monitor and analyze conversations happening on social media platforms to understand customer sentiment, trends and brand perception. By tracking mentions of their brand, products or industry, companies can identify customer pain points, address complaints and proactively engage with their audience on topics that are top of mind.

Using Social Media Data to Understand and Communicate with Customers

Social media data is just one input companies can use to understand and serve their customers. For the best results, it should be combined with data captured on a company’s site, in person at stores or events and/or through third-party research. When properly leveraged, insights gained from this data can help e-commerce brands personalize their customers’ experience, craft detailed customer profiles, create user-generated content (UGC) and maintain a competitive edge.

Improving Customer Profiles

(PopTika/Shutterstock)

Accurate and detailed customer profiles are essential in e-commerce. At a minimum, they should include demographics, psychographics, purchase history and browsing behavior to surface relevant content and product recommendations. Social media data is particularly useful for identifying the psychographics of a target audience — that is, their interests, preferences and lifestyle — especially if other sources like in-person shopping don’t exist. It’s the most up-to-date way for e-commerce brands to get a handle on their current audience in order to personalize the experience for them.

Creating Meaningful User-Generated Content

User-generated content spans social media posts and comments, video content, gaming content and online reviews, which significantly sway buying behavior. A third of U.S. adults rely on customer reviews to get information about products, and TikTok Shop, which uses UGC heavily, aims to grow its U.S. business tenfold to $17.5 billion in 2024. Social media data and polls help companies identify and align with trending topics and leverage user feedback, reviews and participation to generate authentic UGC and build trust with customers.

Understanding the Competition

E-commerce is highly competitive, and many brands vie for sales of products that are similar if not identical. Monitoring competitors’ social media profiles lets brands gather insights into their strategies, content themes, engagement tactics and audience demographics to identify strengths and weaknesses. It also helps gauge public perception, sentiment and reactions to products or services, informing strategic decision-making and competitive positioning. Research may reveal that the CrossFit athlete a brand is targeting (and folks like them) loves a certain protein powder that’s always sold out. The company can recommend a similar protein powder to this audience using targeted advertising and competitive bidding on keywords with messaging saying it’s in stock and ready to ship overnight.

Educated Shoppers Are Still Shopping

Consumers are better educated about what data they share and how it’s used, but it’s not stopping them from participating on social platforms. Some savvy shoppers now like that they can influence the content they see by the accounts they follow, the posts they engage with and the sites they allow to cookie them. E-commerce transparency (even if it was forced on brands by government and compliance mandates) helps build trust and stronger connections with customers while still providing the information needed to surface the most relevant products to boost engagement and sales.

About the author: Zohar Gilad is an experienced technology entrepreneur and executive. In 2013, he co-founded Fast Simon to create a shopping optimization platform for merchants. Fast Simon’s product, InstantSearch+, powers tens of thousands of e-commerce stores with AI eommerce search, AI merchandising, sross sell, pp sell, and personalization.

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