Industry research, insights and thoughts

Social Media Shopping Showdown: Online Retailers Compared

Shopping is an emotional experience.

Whether someone is on the prowl for tangibles – like a pair of killer heels for a hot date – or intangibles – like a swifter mobile carrier – blood runs high with every purchase. Especially on social media.


The social space is positively booming and shows no sign of slowing down; you need to get on board and hang on.

According to and VentureBeat, Facebook boasts more than a billion users, while Twitter – which has 465 million accounts – adds 11 new accounts every second. But whose taking care of all these socially savvy shoppers?

We decided to do a round-up of some of the top brands who conduct retail online and compare their social customer service. Read on to learn who is listening – and ignoring  (gasp!) – their customers on social media.

The Name of the Social Game: Proactivity

While most companies will keep their eye on mentions of their brand’s name, it takes a little extra dedication for customer service teams to seek out tweets that weren’t aimed at them – but should have been.


@Bonobosninjas spotted BowsandBoats’ troublesome pant issue directed at their main handle – @bonobos – and let their customer know (just an hour and a half later) that help was on its way.

Bonobos tweet

While this is just a playfully snarky response – bonus points for humor! – you can tell a few things about @Bonobosninjas. Clearly they’re not only monitoring @bonobos but also “help,” so it’s very likely this tweet went to the top of their heap. Rather than just the marketing team responding back with a glowing ‘thank you,’ Bonobos took the opportunity to showcase their support handle and “train” their customers to seek out this handle for any problems in the future.

Because @bonobosninjas averages about 16 reply tweets a day – but is only directly mentioned about 8 – you can tell their main and support handles are cross-pollinating their monitoring.

@bonobosninjas’ average response time hovers around 1 hour – which is the second fastest of the give companies compared – but still falls short to customer service paragon, @Zappos_Service which sends out ten times the amount of reply tweets…and averages a stellar 10-minute response delay.


This tweet exchange is a particularly interesting example of both proactivity – @fabcrackerjacks sought out a disappointed customer tweet that wasn’t directed at them – but also illustrates two, all-too-common mistakes of social customer service teams.

First, if you tweet at someone… do you want to be told to call them? No, that’s why you tweeted.  Think about the situation in reverse. Can you imagine calling someone, getting through, and they tell you to tweet at them instead and hang up… you’d be livid. And confused.

Like Stuart.

@WarbyParkerHelp – while sending out an impressive average of 1440 tweets per day – also commits this carnal customer service crime.

Warby Parker Tweet

Why can’t the agent check their stock and make an order right then and there on Twitter? Truth be told, we have actually called Warby Parker’s help line several times (lots of us wear their glasses here at Sparkcentral) and there is always a cheery, helpful human being that picks up right away…but still. It’s not a good habit.

Don’t push customers to other mediums – resolve the problem where they reached out.

Secondly, perhaps both Warby Parker and Fab need to grant their customer service agents more power. Let the @fabcrackerjacks agents decide whether it’s worth reimbursing their customer the (arguably) “rip-off” shipping cost or give all the agents access to the Master Stock List for all Warby’s glasses so they can order shipments socially.  Those small – but vital – decisions could be the difference between customers staying or going.

Social Never Sleeps

Like the Eye of Sauron – social never sleeps and social sees all. While every company’s resources and social habits will obviously determine the hours they’ll be present on the Interwebs (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), the goal is to try and be as omnipresent as the medium itself.

Working towards 24/7 social customer service may seem lofty or ludicrous, but take it from customer service aficionado, Zappos – that dedication and availability to customers builds incredible loyalty.


Social Media: Humanize It

We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again – people want to talk to people (faults and all) not robots.


We love the above tweet for three reasons:

1) Because it reveals that a real-life person in real-time is not only listening to these ladies’ troubles, but sharing some of her own!

2) The Zappos_service team sought someone out who simply mentioned Zappos without an @ or a hashtag – proactivity!

3) Last but decidedly not least, Zappos_Service tweeted back to Theresa and Abbie even though Zappos doesn’t sell jeans! They just wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to connect…even though it won’t lead to a sale.

(Zappos agents typically use their names as signatures as well, which is a nice touch. I count at least 20 agents.)

Sometimes on Social You Need to Divide and Conquer

Lastly, we took a look at @Overstock, which while being a solely online company (as opposed to Warby Parker or Fab who’ve opened a few brick and mortar spots) have a rather underwhelming social customer service presence. They seem to divide their handle’s feed between marketing fodder and customer service complaints and the result – in this case – seems rather messy.

Here we can see a customer ranting on @Overstock’s page about their disappointing service….then another customer chimes in with another horror story. It’s not pretty.

There is definitely positivity like with this tweet below…


but Overstock’s policy of sending  their customers to an email address – – is a mistake.


As the majority of their handle is self-promotion and customer problems, Overstock might consider establishing a dedicated support handle to better manage their brand’s integrity. Overall, @Overstock is struggling to keep their heads afloat in the rough seas of social. With @Overstock’s daily mentions hovering around 100, but response tweets averaging only 8 per day (with a near 4-hour delay!) their social customer service team has a long way to go.

Want to learn more about how to wow current customers and woo new ones? Download our White Paper for online retailers’ Best Practices!

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