Retailers love thinking about how they can use IT analytics of social media to get close to their customers. But when a retailer breaks through the invisible social media wall and reacts to an online post with a very personal in-store interaction, it may not reap the desired increased-sales outcome.

Let’s back up for a moment. Because so much of social media happens in the public sphere, retailers have the theoretical ability to capture and analyze millions of customer interactions and make sense of them. But moving from theory to reality is where the fun kicks in.

One example of how sophisticated the analytics is becoming comes from, which this year tried to quantify the social traffic around Black Friday. Its analysis also illustrates the hurdles that remain before retailers can extract meaningful and useful data from the oceans of conversations made available on social media.

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