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Unlocking value from social data

Gain insight and formulate a clear, actionable plan for your valuable social data


Consumers are more than faceless digital transactions, a cookie file, a transaction history or a demographic profile—they are real people with real needs. Businesses that fail to realize this will be left behind.

Social data is a powerful tool that can help companies, including retailers, know their customers better to be able to serve them more fully—and do so at scale. Social data is not a plug-and-play solution for most industries, though, and certainly not for retailers.

In today’s competitive landscape, retailers must use the data they collect intelligently. To do so, they need to understand their specific industry needs, decide what to improve and determine the right questions to ask of the data.

Retailers also need to be familiar with data analysis and machine-learning tools to know what questions they can answer with data, and what sort of data they need to get the right answers to those questions.


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A central problem facing many businesses in various industries is not a lack of data, but the lack of a clear, actionable plan for what to do with the data. This is particularly the case for social data.

During the past few years, the attitude toward social data—especially among consumer-facing companies—has gone from “Social data is just hype,” to “OK, we have it. Now, what do we do with it?”

Accenture has spent much research and time working to answer this question, focusing in particular on social data in the context of the retail industry. The Accenture Technology Vision is rooted in the premise that every business is a digital business.

This message hits very close to home in retail, where online retail giants have disrupted the industry by offering convenience of home delivery, 24/7 availability and customer service, easy return policies, and significantly reduced prices.

To survive in this competitive environment, high performance retailers have to use cutting-edge technology to:

  • Strengthen relationships with customers, suppliers and employees

  • Leverage the data they collect innovatively to improve profitability


Most retail companies have a presence across multiple channels (online, mobile, in-store). Many now have an active presence on social media. Some retailers have even added social plugins on their websites, giving customers the opportunity to use their social logins and share their social identities.

But the next step is still unclear for most retailers.

To use all of this social data effectively, retailers need to combine their knowledge of the industry with an understanding of their existing datasets and analytical tools to determine what questions they can address by using data—and what data they need to collect to answer those questions.

To decide how best to use social data, go back to the core of the industry. The main stakeholders are retailers, customers and suppliers. The only way all stakeholders benefit is by adding value to the mix, so that one party does not have to lose for the other to win.

See and hear the reality vs. the myth of social media for millennials in the retail space.


One way to begin using social data more effectively is to identify traditional pillars of value in your industry and examine how you can use social data to enhance those values in areas such as:

  • Convenience: Use social data to create a more convenient shopping experience for individuals at each step of their shopping journey—from looking for a product, to evaluating various products, to purchasing the product.

  • Product selection: Use social data to source more relevant products that better match the needs of the target audience, through either observance or inference.

  • Information and expertise: Harness the power of social data and advanced technologies to provide customized information and expertise to each customer to meet specific needs.

  • Price and efficiency: Use social data to predict demand ahead of time, improving operational efficiency and reducing costs.

  • Customer service: Improve the level of customer service through intelligent social data, without prohibitively increasing the cost of service.

  • Customer segmentation: Use social data to get a better understanding of who customers are at the segment or individual levels, and then use the information to serve them better.