By Alistair Rennie
Leaders at a global food service company wanted to understand more precisely the types of people who visit their stores throughout a typical day. The goal: To spot hidden patterns that could help them market to specific customers more successfully.
With IBM’s help, they began incorporating Twitter streams into their analysis of loyalty-program data. The exercise quickly produced surprising insights. For instance, they learned that people with similar tastes in food and drinks tended to come in at specific times of day. One time-constrained type of customer, for instance, visits the stores nearly every morning, purchases food and beverages to go, and even buys their lunch during their morning visit.
These insights made it possible for the company to plan for surges in demand for certain items and to create mobile marketing campaigns targeting specific customers with offers at the times of day they would be most receptive to them. The company had achieved the holy grail of marketing–namely, micro-segmentation of their customer base.
The alliance of IBM with Twitter, which we announced last Oct. 29, must have seemed like a strange combination. But just 4 ½ months later, by combining Twitter’s millions of Tweets with IBM’s business expertise and big-data analytics technology, more than 150 companies have begun mining insights that make a real difference in their business.
Our two companies have quickly combined forces to bring these new capabilities to market. Using IBM’s tools, data scientists are able to incorporate Twitter’s rich data streams into analytics applications, where data from multiple sources can be analyzed and visualized and transformed into actionable insights. IBM business consultants are working with Twitter to develop unique solutions for several industries – including financial services, consumer products and retail – with more to come over time.
And we’re incorporating Tweet-digesting tools into our Watson Developer Cloud and Bluemix development platforms so entrepreneurs and developers will be able to pop them into applications and mobile apps with a minimum of effort.
As a result of our intense collaboration, there are now a number of real-life examples where organizations are tapping into Twitter streams to harvest insights that help them understand customer sentiment, develop hit products and services, and anticipate sudden shifts in moods and markets.
Our business consultants combed through the results that our clients have already achieved, and, like the marketers at the global food service company, they spotted some previously-hidden patterns. They produced a list of five top insights to emerge from our alliance with Twitter so far:
Stormy weather can create sales opportunities for companies. By combining Twitter sentiment with weather and geo-spatial data, a telecommunications services company is now able to track weather-related dissatisfaction concerning its competitors’ services and target direct marketing campaigns to people in storm-affected areas.
In retailing, customer loyalty comes in part from personal relationships. Analysis combining employee churn data with consumer sentiment revealed that a retailer’s most valuable customers are drawn back into the store by seeing familiar faces among the staff. As a result, the company expanded its training and retention programs.
Social listening helps companies track compliance with regulations. A pharmacy chain uses Twitter streams to spot complaints about its employees’ compliance with privacy, safety and notification rules that are such an important part of its business. By combining those signals with geographic information, they can spot problem stores and bring improvements.
In consumer-facing businesses, damage to reputations quickly impacts profitability. Working with a insurance company offering reputational risk insurance, we’re helping them size up links between Twitter sentiment about specific companies and their shifting financial results, enabling the insurer to price policies better.
Fashion-forward people who share on social media create a taste-map of the planet. A clothing manufacturer and retailer uses Tweets to spot shifting tastes in clothing in real time as styles catch on or fade in various locations. It’s better able to plan for demand or introduce and merchandise new styles.
In each case, the companies involved are able to use a combination of Twitter data and sophisticated analytics to understand their customers, their markets and their competitors than ever before.
We’re just four months into our relationship with Twitter, and while these early results are impressive I believe we’re just scratching the surface of what will be possible. As our tools become more industry specific and as entrepreneurs targeting particular business niches get hold of them, you can expect incredible new capabilities to emerge. By combining forces with Twitter, we’re making it possible for businesses to hear the voices of the people of the world.