November 26, 2013, 1:57 PM

Retailers better get ready for a lot of tweeting

Consumers’ retail-related tweets spiked last year right after Thanksgiving.

Lead Photo

With tweet volumes expected to soar next week as the holiday season moves into full swing, retailers need to be ready to respond to shoppers’ questions and concerns, according to a new report from Conversocial Ltd. 

The social media customer service vendor last year found that tweet volumes increased fivefold in the week following Thanksgiving compared to an average week in October. And because 88% of consumers in a study last year said that they were less likely to buy from a merchant if they saw that the retailer failed to respond to customer complaints and questions on social networks, online merchants have their work cut out for them, the report says.

Conversocial examined more than 200,000 mentions on Twitter that included Twitter handles for 10 large retailers—Barney’s New York, J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Kohl’s Corp., Macy’s Inc., Nordstrom Inc., Saks Fifth Avenue, Sears Holdings Corp., Target Corp., Urban Outfitters Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.—from Nov. 15 to Jan. 1. The vendor analyzed both the number of messages and their content.

During the holiday period, which Conversocial defined as Nov. 20 to Jan. 1, the average number of tweets per day that included the 10 retailers’ Twitter handles increased 123% over the average day in October.

However, there was wide variation between the content of those messages and when consumers posted them. For instance, Target had two  spikes—on Dec. 4 and Dec. 11—with the majority of the tweets related to a few of its products being out of stock. Overall, 10% of Target-related messages were related to product availability, higher than any of the other retailers in the study. That shows that if a retailer has issues fulfilling demand, shoppers will take to Twitter to voice their discontent, the report says. 

Meanwhile, 48% of Macy’s-related tweets were related to words associated with customer satisfaction, with only 3% of its tweets focused around general customer service issues such as posts about “agents” or the retailer’s “hotline.” That suggests the retailer encountered few widespread issues or complications during the holidays.

48.5% of consumers mentioning Kohl’s on Twitter used holiday-specific hashtags, which was likely due to the retailer running sweepstakes and other promotions that required shoppers to include a specific hashtag in their messages to enter. Adding a hashtag—any word that starts with a pound sign—to a post enables consumers to click on the hashtag to find related posts.

Kohl’s’ percentage of holiday-related tweets that included hashtags was much higher than Sears’, which had 15.3% of its tweets include holiday-specific hashtags, making it the next highest percentage. That shows that shoppers were particularly attuned to Kohl’s Twitter holiday campaign, says the report. Conversely, only 4.9% of Nordstrom’s tweets included holiday-related hashtags, which suggests that holiday-specific promotions played a smaller part in the retailer’s marketing efforts.

Shoppers also used Twitter to voice complaints and kudos about retailers’ in-store experience. 29.9% of J.C. Penney’s messages were about its in-store experience, more than 11 percentage points higher than Nordstrom, which had the second-most tweets about its stores, at 18.0% of its tweets.

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