Five Insights into the Psychology of Twitter


Statistics and sampling are an amazing thing. Even if, like me, you have a healthy scepticism about the way that data is analysed and interpreted, it is difficult – if not foolhardy – to downplay the inevitability of data. Just look at the various disputes around the veracity of climate change – where statistically irrelevant interpretations have derailed important decisions, changes and commitments. Eventually, even the hardiest data curmudgeon will need to yield to the truth of the climate science data – perhaps only as their seaside apartment is swept into the arms of the sea. For though there may be outliers and anomalies in the data, sampling – where carried out correctly – can yield tremendously accurate insight. As Margaret Rouse explains on the TechTarget website:

Sampling allows data scientists, predictive modelers and other data analysts to work with a small, manageable amount of data in order to build and run analytical models more quickly, while still producing accurate findings. Sampling can be particularly useful with data sets that are too large to efficiently analyze in full — for example, in big data analytics applications.

And it is sampling that makes Twitter one of the more fascinating social networks and big data stores of our time. While Facebook grows its membership into the billions, its underlying data store, its connection and interaction architecture and its focus on first tier networks also limits its capacity to operate efficiently as a news source and distribution network. Twitter on the other hand, with its 200+ million members, provides a different and more expansive member engagement model.

During our recent forum presentations on the voice of the customer, Twitter’s Fred Funke explained the view that Twitter was “the pulse of the planet”. Using tools as simple as Twitter search or Trending Topics, Twitter users can quickly identify topics that important to them – or to the broader local, regional and global communities. And, of course, with the new IBM-Twitter partnership, there are a raft of tools that allow businesses to go much deeper into these trends and topics.

In doing so, however, we have to ask. What are we looking for? What information will create a new insight? Which data points will reveal a behaviour? And how can this be framed in a way that is useful?

Five Buyer Insights that Drive Engagement

Just because interactions are taking place online doesn’t mean that they occur in isolation. In fact, our online and offline personalities are intricately linked. And as the majority of our digital interactions take place via text, linguistic analysis will reveal not only the meaning of our words but also our intention. Some things to look out for and understand include:

  1. Buying is an impulse: As much as the economists would like to believe we act logically, we know that buyers are emotional creatures. We buy on whim. On appeal. On impulse. And there is no greater impulse these days to share an experience (good or bad) via Twitter. Look particularly at the stream for comments tagged with #fail. It is full of opportunity for the responsive marketer keen to pick up a churning customer having a bad customer experience.
  2. The customer journey is visible: While we are researching our next purchase, digital consumers leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs that can be spotted using analytics software. For example, we may tweet out links of videos that we are viewing on YouTube, share blog posts related to our pre-purchase research and even ask directly whether a particular product lives up to the hype. Just take a look at the #lazyweb stream around the topic of Windows10.
  3. Understand the pain to optimise the opportunity: When engaging via social media, it is important to understand the challenges or “pain points” that your customers (or potential customers) are facing. Rather than spruiking the benefits of your own products, focusing on an empathetic understanding of your customer’s needs more quickly builds trust and is grounded in a sense of reality. The opportunity with social media is to guide the journey, not short cut it.
  4. Case studies build vital social proof: No one wants to be the first to try your new product. Showing that the path to customer satisfaction is well worn is vital. Use case studies to pave the way.
  5. We buy in herds: Mark Earls was right. Not only do we want social proof, we prefer that proof to reflect on our own sense of belonging to a group or movement. Remember that we go where the other cows go, and structure your social media interactions accordingly.

The folks over at have put together this infographic on the psychology of Twitter. They suggest that we tweet for love, affection and belonging. It may be true, but sometimes we just also want to vent. And every vent is a market opportunity.

psychology of twitter

Retail Disrupted-Consumers Get Smarter says IBM Study


I have a love-hate relationship with shopping. Actually, when I think about it, I quite like shopping as an experience. What I don’t like the way retail transforms that experience. You see, retail shopping is filled with frustration:

  • There’s no or limited stock
  • Loyalty programs are more of a burden than a benefit
  • The digital experience is out-of-kilter with the in-store experience
  • Customer service is an after thought.

And it seems I am not alone. The 2015 IBM Smarter Consumer Study: Shoppers Disrupted gauged global sentiment about consumers’ shopping behaviour. The extensive survey of 28,500 online respondents across 15 countries saw more than 1,800 Australians respond to the survey.

Some of the key findings include:

  • Australian shoppers are less loyal than ever – 10% act as advocates while 37% act as antagonists
  • 38% of 20-39 year olds prefer to shop online
  • Online shopping is up across all categories (esp consumer electronics)
  • Shoppers prefer to be in control – and that means a mobile experience.

You can register and download the full report here.

Now, much of this is not new. I have been analysing the structural, technological and strategic problems with retail for years. But Australian retail, in particular, has been slow to respond to the challenges (and opportunities) of digital disruption. And when they do respond, they often do so with the blinkered vision of incumbency. Does this leave the door open for nimble competition or does is just breed consumer mistrust and apathy? I’d love your thoughts.

The big question, of course, is when will retailers fix these problems? Those that do will reap the reward of an increasingly digitally-savvy customer base. Those that twiddle their thumbs will see their customers switch allegiances – or worse – become antagonists.


Australian Online Retail Grows – But Did You?


eWAY-holiday-retail-spendingAn interesting report has been released by eWay – the online payments gateway that powers more than 17,000 Australian online stores. Showing a 20 percent year-on-year growth for the mid-November to mid-January period, the results bode well for the struggling retail industry.

The report reveals that with traditional sales kicking in on Boxing Day (26 December), the industry received a much needed boost. Over $35 million was spent not in-store, but from the comfort of our living rooms. But rather than a “holiday spike”, there was a consistency in spending online. “It was very steady. eWAY recorded higher sales and transactions volumes in October than we did in December”, said Matt Bullock, founder and CEO of eWay.

Processing 1 in every 4 dollars spent locally online, eWay have extrapolated their data to reveal a surge in retail over the Christmas/New Year period. Interestingly, this seems to have been mirrored by the retail growth experienced by Harvey Norman. Fairfax media reports that after a surge in its share price, Harvey Norman explained, “The big sales increase was in the December-January period. It’s only a week, and there are 52 weeks in a year, but it’s a positive sign”. And while sales were strong across the board, sales of the FitBit seem to be riding a #BackToFitness trend associated with new year resolutions and holiday over indulgence (yes, guilty as charged).

Unfortunately, the data from Harvey Norman does not reveal a split between online and offline sales. eMarketer, meanwhile, has released estimates claiming that retail ecommerce will grow 14 percent this year, passing $10 billion. This would seem a safe bet given eWay’s calculation that Q4 2014 sales accounted for close to $4.5 billion.

But what does this all mean?

Without a doubt, the retail industry is being disrupted. Consumers are discovering, debating and deciding on products well ahead of reaching out to retailers or visiting stores (with stores often only used for the convenience of immediate delivery). So if you ONLY have a bricks and mortar store, now is the time to being investing in your digital strategy. And if you already have a digital presence, now is the time to build out your customer experience strategy.

Brewing Disruption: Percolate’s Future of Retail


When it first launched, Noah Brier’s Percolate was a daily filter of quality social media content delivered directly to your inbox. But there was a deeper, darker and stronger agenda lurking beneath the surface of the Percolate news – a marketing platform that seeks to become the system of record for marketing. Now boasting clients as diverse as GE, Unilever, Converse and Pandora, Percolate have begun to amass a big data warehouse that can yield up-to-date information across a range of industry categories.

In their Future of Retail report, the Percolate team have curated 50 charts that signal the changes that have occurred and that are projected into the near future. Broken into six sections – macro trends, industries, eCommerce deep dive, consumer behaviour, path to purchase and offline strikes back – there is plenty to think on for the traditional, hybrid and digital retailer alike.

You can register to download the report for free – but there are few charts that caught my attention and are worth a closer look.

Percolate-6 Price and Coupon Search Leads In-Store Phone Use:  Perhaps there is no great surprise here, but this research lends weight to anecdotal evidence and data analysis that suggests smartphone use in-store can play an important role in closing a sale.With 31% of respondents indicating that they use their phones for comparison shopping in-store, it’s clear that there is an opportunity to use technology to influence a sale with an almost immediate impact.Question for retailers: Have you invested in “right time” technologies that allow you to target, reach and engage shoppers who are in-location and ready to buy?
Percolate-1 eCommerce Growth Driven by Mobile: We’ve been saying this for a while, but it’s clear that transacting via smartphones is becoming commonplace. And when we read this chart in conjunction with the one above, the message for retail laggards is equally clear – disruption has arrived.This disruption has been made possible because of the gulf between customer expectation and the retailer’s ability to deliver.Question for retailers: What do your competitors look like? How do they approach eCommerce?
Percolate-5 Social Traffic Conversion Rates are Growing: For years it has been accepted that social media is more about brand building than about sales. But the data reveals some growth here. And as with anything digital, those experimenting and learning from their efforts now, will reap the benefits further down the track.Question for retailers: What are you learning from your social media eCommerce / conversion initiatives?
Percolate-4 Consumers Will Pay More for Sustainability: In all countries/regions, there has been a significant year-on-year rise in the percentage of consumers who will pay a premium for sustainable products and services. This puts social responsibility on the brand agenda precisely at a time where sustainability is under pressure from the political classes.Moreover, it has never been easier for consumers to determine the scale of a brand’s commitment to social responsibility.Question for retailers: Have you gone beyond “greenwashing” to make a true commitment to sustainability? How does this play out in other aspects of your business beyond the product?

You can download the full Future of Retail report and charts on the Percolate website.

Disrupting Retail: Three myths about digital and in-store shopping


A couple of weeks back I had the opportunity to speak at the DiG Festival about the future of retail. The panel hosted by retail guru, Nancy Georges evolved very quickly away from a simple notion of retail to one augmented by digital technology, mobile connectivity and dominated by a focus on customer experience.

And while great strides have been made overseas in recent years, it seems that Australian retailers are only now starting to properly grapple with the challenges and opportunities afforded by digital. For many categories, this has left gaping holes in the retail experience, affording startups and more agile small players to enter and dominate parts of the Australian retail landscape. Just think of the way:

  • Zara swept into the country, catching Myer and David Jones completely off guard
  • Shoes of Prey have outflanked and reinvigorated the custom women’s footwear space
  • ASOS out-compete local retailers with reliable online shopping and speedy fulfilment

In many ways, this is symptomatic of a larger shift in consumer behaviour. We are now using our mobile phones and digital devices to fulfil our consumptive impulses, and Australian retailers have been caught with their pants down, having stubbornly under-invested in technology, innovation and customer experience for decades.

There is, however, an increasing body of evidence that retailers can rely upon to bust the entrenched, old-skool thinking that seems to dominate the boards and executive ranks of Australian retail. And this latest research from Google is a great starting point. Busting three myths about digital and its relationship to in-store purchase, the report shows:

Myth 1: Search results only send consumers to eCommerce sites

The research shows that far from creating a barrier to in-store shopping, quality search results can drive in-store traffic. However, this clearly means that retailers have to be actively managing and updating their web presence and product catalogues.


Myth 2: Retailers lose the attention of in-store customers once they turn to their smartphones

With 42% of in-store shoppers searching for information online while in the store, an up-to-date website with integrated recommendation could deliver powerful cross-selling opportunities.


Myth 3: Online research has relegated in-store experience to the transaction

In reality, consumers have higher customer experience expectations than ever before. For example, 85% of shoppers say they’d be more likely to shop in places that offer personalised coupons and exclusive offers in-store.


You can download the full report here. But it is time for retailers to go beyond reading and to step out of the shadows of the Twentieth Century. It’s time to embrace the opportunities that come with disruptive technology and business models. Not to do so will open yet more doors to disruptive competitors – and no business can afford that.

Michael Hill Launches Valentine’s Day with Shoppable Video


I have been complaining about a lack of retail innovation – especially digital-oriented innovation – for some time. So it’s nice to see Australian jeweller / retailer, Michael Hill, taking on the challenge in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day.


Using Brightcove’s video cloud, Michael Hill combine video content – in this case, behind the scenes footage – to allow customers to purchase items depicted in the video. As the video progresses, “shoppable” items are highlighted in the scrolling product list. Sure it’s a little clunky in terms of experience, but it works, looks good and it’s an experiment that Michael Hill and their agency will learn from. And that puts them streets ahead of most other Australian retailers who struggle with the web basics.

Gustin Shows Why Retailers Still Don’t Get Digital

Gustin to transform retail

For years, Australian retailers have under-invested in digital. They held back technology investment, closed down innovation programs and hired traditional marketers when they should have been growing their own breed of tech-savvy innovators. And while retailers had their heads in the sand, the world changed.

Recent failures like ClickFrenzy have been down played and it’s clear that even the retailers with some digital budget are unprepared for the fast moving transformation taking place thanks to mobile.

In spite of all the trends, facts, figures and forecasts, retailers remain unconvinced. What is driving this myopic view of the future of business? In many ways, it feels like a classic illustration of the The Innovator’s Dilemma – companies (and indeed a whole industry) misses out on new waves of innovation because they are unable to capitalise on disruptive technologies.

But I also think retailers are captives of “Big Thinking”. Because they operate at scale, big thinking clouds their judgement. It’s easy to discount competitors when they generate sales that are fractions of a percentage of your business. But it’s not the percentage that’s important, its the velocity and momentum.

Hand made men’s clothing manufacturer, Gustin, illustrate this shift beautifully. They launched a Kickstarter campaign some time ago with the aim of raising $20,000. The premise was simple:

  • Capitalise on their growing brand and reputation for premium menswear hand-crafted in San Francisco
  • Allow for pre-purchasing of products through crowdsourcing – perfectly matching the demand and supply chains
  • Deliver the retail items to customers directly at wholesale price

Now, with two days before the campaign closes, Gustin have massively over-reached their goal. Currently sitting at almost $407,000, Gustin have smashed the target, connecting with almost 4000 new customers and validating not only their approach but also whole product lines.

And all this was done by taking an outside-in view of their business.

Until other retailers can transform the way they think about their business, their customers and the experience they provide, they will continue to struggle with this new world of digital.

How ClickFrenzy Became a ClickFizzer

How ClickFrenzy became a ClickFizzer

It should have been a raging online success for Australian retailers – a pre-Christmas event bringing together hundreds of local stores to create an online marketplace unrivalled in Australia’s digital history.

The aptly named ClickFrenzy was designed to kick start the holiday purchasing season with an Australian flavour – with local retailers aiming for a greater slice of the estimated $16 billion spent each year online. It appeared to be a match made in virtual heaven – retailers with full warehouses and consumers waiting with wallets fattened off the back of low unemployment and stable economic growth. What could go wrong?

Like Any Failure, It’s Not About the Technology

When the ClickFrenzy servers went down minutes before the 7PM launch, Facebook and Twitter exploded with frustration. But the seeds of this failure go back years.

For decades the retail sector has been under-investing in technology. Despite having international eCommerce startup superstar BigCommerce sitting on their doorsteps, most Australian retailers steadfastly resisted committing to the online purchasing experience. Some of the largest of retailers launched  poorly designed digital stores with clunky and outdated user experience, limited product lines and pricing models that were less than sharp. The excuses are many and varied, but at the heart I believe it’s a case of the The Innovator’s Dilemma – retailers past success has created the obstacles preventing them from succeeding in the face of changing markets and technologies.

Retailers Were Blindsided by the Connected Consumer

Over the last couple of weeks I have been speaking a lot about the disruptive impact of technology. The Connected Consumer has transformed the landscape and outflanked most brands. They are discovering, debating and deciding what they will buy well ahead of the traditional marketing funnel.

Retailers may have seen this change taking place but have not undertaken the transformation in strategic thinking, execution and delivery that is required. They did not dig their well before needing the water. They did not follow the most basic of customer centric models (see below).


The Good News – Retail Now Has a Burning Platform

As I suggested recently, the under-investment in technology by the retail sector has been possible because there was no “burning platform”:

People still bought goods – especially appliances and larger items in stores, and “online” was considered risky, unreliable, and difficult to navigate when it came to returns, warranties and customer service.

Many retailers in the past have made many excuses for poor online execution, appalling digital strategy and non-existent or simplistic social media engagement. I am half expecting to see the same again.

But Australian retailers should wake up and smell the smoke. It’s time for a dramatic rethink from the ground up. It’s time to delve deep and understand the fundamental transformation that has taken place in consumer markets and to work with the disruption in a way that transforms the nature of retail. It’s time for digital marketing transformation.

Driving Retail from Digital to Destination

  • The marketing funnel has imploded under its own inadequacy
  • Marketers must respond to the shift to digital with the 5 Ds of consumer engagement
  • Analytics is essential to understand the path to conversion

For decades, Australian retailers have under-invested in technology and online innovation. After all there was no “burning platform.” People still bought goods – especially appliances and larger items in stores, and “online” was considered risky, unreliable, and difficult to navigate when it came to returns, warranties and customer service.

But then consumers connected. Reviews helped identify quality products. Reputation management allowed online merchants to demonstrate their credibility. And web experiences improved. Prices were better.

People talked.

And kept talking.

Those conversations shifted from sites to platforms. They happened in places far away from the brand police and customer service teams. They proliferated on sites like Twitter, Get Satisfaction and Facebook.

But just as the connected consumer shifts digital channels in the blink of an eye, taking the conversation with them, so too can brands follow this consumer lead. Those with a considered and well executed strategy can connect the dots and drive retail from digital to destination.

Marketers should develop three practices to drive retail from digital to destination:

  1. Understand the 5 Ds of Consumer Engagement: The marketing funnel has imploded under its own inadequacy. It’s time to understand the buyer’s journey from the outside-in. Following the 5 Ds allows marketers to understand, map and engage their connected consumers at key stations on the buyers journey
  2. When it comes to content and channels, don’t think ONLY think AND: It’s time to break down the silos. Based on the 5 Ds, marketers must begin to work with strategic omni-channel (or multi-channel) formats. This means understanding how content, interactions and engagement work at each station – and where digital can extend or augment an experience (digital or non-digital)
  3. Know and measure your path to conversion: Don’t fool yourself that all conversion must happen in-store. Make it easy to purchase anywhere – after all, mobile is the ultimate impulse device. But understand that in-store is now about controlling the brand experience. Ensure that the destination experience is worth the journey in. Use omni-channel analytics to measure and understand the path to conversion.

Now, take a moment to view this (now finished) campaign from Adidas NEO. What’s the customer experience? What’s the journey? And what’s the engagement strategy at play?

Now, how would you play this out with your brand? Be creative.


Mobile Disruption Catches Retailers Off-guard

We are now deep into the last quarter for 2012. Marketers are pre-occupied by two challenges – planning for 2013 and preparing to launch Q4 campaigns designed to close out the year on a sales high.

Innovation in the customer buying journey has, however, changed the game. We are all retailers now and the ground has already shifted from beneath our feet. Google Retail’s recent report on consumer shopping confirms what we have known for some time:

  • The connected consumer sees no distinction between online and offline shopping
  • The connected consumer discovers, debates and decides on purchase ahead of the marketing funnel
  • Trust drives conversions


Marketers have failed to keep pace with consumer led innovation

While there has been some investment in digital technologies, and campaign experimentation over the last nine months, there has been precious little innovation where it counts – in marketing practice.

Six principles to transform your marketing efforts

Our recent big idea report on recasting the marketing funnel for consumer engagement identified six principles that must be addressed:

  1. Fragmentation creates silos not synergies
  2. The marketing funnel assumes a passive customer
  3. The next-gen customer experience is owned from the outside-in
  4. Next-gen customers purchase in their own time frame
  5. Purchase decisions occur before consumers reach your marketing funnel
  6. Trust is the currency of digital marketing

Marketers must prepare for the most social holiday retail season now

The 2012 holiday season is primed to be the most social ever. And in terms of “social”, read “mobile”. The Deloitte Dawn of Mobile Influence report on mobile retail reveals that mobile already influences significant in-store purchases and this is predicted to accelerate through 2016. This shift is a global phenomenon as our upcoming report 5 Lessons from Digital Asia Pacific’s Digital Trajectory shows, with mobile innovation efforts garnering 100 million+ audiences across the region.


To outcompete in your markets, retailers must move quickly to identify and fill gaps in the customer experience journey. To counteract this mobile disruption, retailers should:

  1. Re-cast the marketing funnel in terms of the buyers journey
  2. Look to software-as-a-service providers to fill the technology gap quickly and effectively
  3. Consider whether your digital (mobile and social) marketing really does focus on customer need across the buying cycle (answer the WIIFM question – does it get me made, laid or paid) and recalibrate accordingly

Your POV

Are your retail efforts up-to-speed? Are you ready for the social holiday season? Add your comments or send us an email.

Please let us know if you need help with your digital strategy efforts.  Here’s how we can assist:

  • Assessing social business/digital marketing readiness
  • Considering new digital strategy
  • Developing your social business/digital marketing  strategy
  • Designing a data to decisions strategy
  • Create a new vision of the future of work
  • Deliver a new customer experience and engagement strategy
  • Crafting a new matrix commerce strategy