Toy Story: A Predictive Analysis of Consumer Purchasing Behavior Using Social Media Monitoring

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A social media monitoring study conducted by Ann Michaels & Associates reveals that online word of mouth can drive purchasing decisions within the toy industry. Predictive analysis based on this data may lend credence to which toys will be the best sellers during the 2011 holiday shopping season.

Toys R Us Top Toy List of 2011

Which toy will be the best seller this holiday season?

The results of this study, while not scientific in nature, illustrate the power of social media monitoring in the retail industry.

The results of a study conducted by Ann Michaels & Associates were released today, which focused on the effectiveness of social media monitoring as a potential predictor of consumer purchasing habits with regard to toy products during the upcoming holiday shopping season. Social media data reveals that online word of mouth may drive purchasing decisions and brand awareness during the last quarter of 2011, potentially affecting the success of sales in this industry.

Ann Michaels & Associates conducted the first leg of a two-part study examining the effect of social media on consumer purchasing habits. Specifically, the study set out to evaluate the spread of online conversation after the official release of the “Hot Toy List” for the upcoming holiday shopping season, in which 15 toys were deemed to be the “must have” items this season. Further analysis was conducted to determine if conclusions can be made with regard to those toy products that will be the best sellers during the 2011 holiday shopping season.

Utilizing a social media monitoring program, online conversations within the United States were tracked surrounding the 15 toy products featured both before and after the release. This encompassed any social conversation occurring online, including message boards and forums, social media venues such as Twitter and Facebook, blogs, and other social sites.

The results were aggregated and analyzed with regard to the following:

  • Daily volume to determine the effect of the list release on online conversations and product awareness.
  • Share of voice to determine the amount of conversation for each toy before and after the list release.
  • Demographic analysis where applicable, including age, gender, and geographical data.
  • Sentiment of content, including positive, negative, or neutral tone was evaluated in order to offer predictions regarding the top three sellers of the 2011 holiday shopping season based on social media monitoring data.

The most prominent findings from this study include:

  • A shift in online conversation with regard to some of the products on the list, noting increased awareness of specific products after the list was released. This only occurred with some products; however, even those toy products with relatively no online conversation prior to the release showed a slight, but temporary, increase in online conversation immediately following the official release.
  • Online conversation for Air Swimmers spiked within three days after the release. It is interesting to note that the data revealed conversations indicating that many thought this was a “new” product. It is a significant finding, as this is not a ‘new” product; however, the brand awareness prior to the launch may not have been significant enough to drive consumer purchases. Additionally, the consumer demographic shifted slightly, as those talking about purchasing the item not only fell into the typical consumer group with young children, but also showed an older demographic, with those falling into the 24-34 age range expressing intent to purchase this item for friends or their own personal use.
  • Based on the data collected, as well as the shift in online conversation and specific conversation themes in the aggregated data, three of the 15 toys were predicted to be the top sellers this holiday season. These include, in order of predicted performance: Air Swimmers, Skylanders, and Moshi Monsters.

The results of this study, while not statistically significant or scientific in nature, illustrate the power of social media monitoring in the retail industry. Furthermore, they corroborate the importance of utilizing social media monitoring and marketing for brand exposure and awareness, customer satisfaction assessment, and informal online focus groups.

A subsequent study will be conducted in early 2012 to evaluate the data following the holiday shopping season. This study will focus on the best-selling toys from the official list and how the social media data correlates to their success, as well as a comparative analysis of social media activity and the actual purchasing habits of consumers during the holiday shopping season.

The complete study is available for download and can be found on Ann Michaels & Associates' website.

About Ann Michaels & Associates
Ann Michaels & Associates is a full service customer experience management firm specializing in social media management services, including social media monitoring and marketing services. The company has provided customized programs to clients across North America to better evaluate and understand the customer experience. In addition to social media management services, Ann Michaels & Associates offers mystery shopping, customer feedback programs, and employee based services. For more information, please visit our website at


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