The Sentimental Approach

Dick’s Sporting Goods monitors social commentary to boost customer satisfaction

If you really want to know what people think about you, you need to find out what they say behind your back. Historically this has been a tricky proposition, but the advent of social media provides an open forum where companies as well as individuals can check to see what is being said, and whether the commentary is good or bad.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc., the 550-plus-store, Pittsburgh-based retailer of athletic equipment and apparel, leverages hosted technology from social intelligence provider newBrandAnalytics to monitor relevant consumer “chatter” on various social networks.

“Within social media, there is a lot of information, and different ways to get a better sense of customer sentiment,” said Ryan Eckel, VP brand marketing of Dick’s Sporting Goods. “It complements our internal survey perspective.”

newBrandAnalytics provides a hosted, customized social intelligence platform that uses natural language processing and machine- learning capabilities to obtain contextual and inferred meaning from social comments, which are often casual, colloquial and even sarcastic. The machine-learning capabilities allow the solution to become more proficient at detecting and analyzing relevant commentary as time goes on.

“We get the meaning with a high degree of confidence it’s accurate,” Eckel said.

Dick’s Sporting Goods was not actively seeking a social monitoring solution when newBrandAnalytics contacted the company in early 2013 to explain its technology, according to Eckel.

“There was no RFP, but it sounded interesting enough to take a meeting,” he recalled. “We hadn’t identified a need but decided we’d listen.”

Seeing the potential value of newBrandAnalytics’ offering, Dick’s Sporting Goods began working with the vendor in May 2013 for a short run-up to launch of the platform in July 2013.

“We prepared the data for a week or so to figure out the right way to look at it for our organization,” Eckel said. “We push all social media data through the software to analyze it. We can look at brand sentiment and how specific regions or locations are performing.”

The highly scalable, multi-tenant custom platform is hosted with Rackspace and features an HTML5-based front end. While Dick’s typically checks data on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis to compare against previous trends, the company can pull data at any time for real-time analysis and reaction.

“What we’ve been seeing is no massive surprise, but it gives us more color behind our quantifiable data,” Eckel explained.

Different data, such as commercial chatter and customer service chatter, is applied to different parts of the business. In addition, since initial rollout Dick’s has been customizing social media data for use by other departments besides marketing. Areas such as operations and human resources are now receiving custom data sets for their own use, and Dick’s plans to continue expanding this program for other departments, as well.

“The highest utility is on the brand side,” concluded Eckel. “We look at native chatter and how it can drive brand sentiment. We are making this part of our corporate culture, which is to be as insightful as possible.”

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