Social Intelligence: The Building Blocks of Retail Success Nicholas Webb of Lassen Innovation, a management consulting firm, recently spoke with CMSWire about the problem that many companies face during product development and through the example of a child's building set shows how important social intelligence is to retailers.

When trying to create the next innovative product retail companies can run into many different problems. One common issue is these businesses create products without knowing exactly what customers are looking for, which results in the item not having favorable reviews or not selling as well as the company would like.

There is a way to improve how well a business connects and relates to its targeted audience if they use customer input from social channels as a design base.

Remember to Listen to the Customer

It’s something that’s been said time and time again: marketing is all about the customer. Despite this, many companies still release products without actually listening to what kind of qualities and features customers are looking for.

In the past marketing strategies have focused on reusing product trends from previous years or if using social intelligence tools looking at a data sampling that is too broad. For example, a business might look at mother's who have school aged children, when they instead should be looking at mothers with a middle class family income, in their 30's who have children aged 4 to 6.

"Historically 80 percent of products that fail didn't because the product wasn't good,” said Webb. “They failed because the information was wrong or incomplete or because they are inventing on information that makes them [the developers] make wrong choices.

Also, due to today’s digitally connected world, brands and customers can connect more easily so if a company isn't releasing the type of product that its customers want, they can easily do a keyword search to find a company that meets certain specifications. This also leads to product failure as customers no longer have to settle for a product because they think it's the only one of its kind available.

Sifting Through Information

Social media is proving to be a good way for a brand to pinpoint exactly who its audience is and what types of qualities they are looking for, but there's a lot of information for companies to weave through and it is constantly being updated and changed.

In using social intelligence or social listening tools, such as analytics, companies can weave through data to better understand customers. Through these tools information is separated into groups and then broken down so the audience for a particular item is easily determined and can be targeted in an upcoming campaign.

The beautiful thing about social learning is we know the best way to get information is through contact point innovation and that’s when we drill down deep and look at each experience point; what is that experience like for the customer and then we use that experience to create a better experience,” said Webb.

As a result of being able to connect with its audience, pinpoint relevant data and create a better customer experience, a business will be able to improve a product's success rate and overall company revenue.

A Building Set Example

For Webb, the example that shows how valuable social intelligence can be is children's building toy Hanz

Social Intelligence Hanz

In using tools provided by NetBase, Lassen found out exactly who this product's audience was. For example, the children that this product is being bought for are digitally adept, have shorter attention spans and always looking for the newest version of a product they currently have.

There’s tremendous amount of noise from the stores as they wonder what they can do to be relevant to this new digitally connected kid," said Webb. "We found that what customers wanted is a game that drives innovation, collaboration and keeps them [the child] engaged.”

As for parents, Lassen says that mothers aged 30 or older were looking for an educational, environmentally friendly, reusable product that was similar to Lego. 

With this in mind, Hanz was born. The company knew that they needed to redesign the overall building set idea put forth by Lego so it made sure that Hanz was made of 100 percent recycled plastic, the pieces can be used to build over a 1000 different structures and through an internet-based community allow children to share their creations and see what others are making.

As of January 2013, the Hanz product had sold out its first 400 units, with a waiting list for the second release.

Overall, if organizations and developers embrace social intelligence, Webb says that they will be able improve not only how well a brand resonates with customers, but develop some groundbreaking new products.

For the average company to understand how to leverage this new insight, it is really where we are going to see organizations do some amazing things,” Webb said.