... one of its top-selling products, Supima Cotton Fitted Sheets, was being slammed in online customer reviews.
As a result it removed the sheets from its website, having found that a wrinkle-resistance treatment mistakenly added by a contractor was causing the cotton fabric to unravel. It offered new sheets to the 6,300 customers who had purchased the sheets and destroyed the rest of the faulty batch.
"Before [the data mining project] it would have taken us months and months to figure out if something was wrong with the product through returns, if we ever would have known at all," admitted L L Bean's chief marketing officer Steve Fuller.
LL Bean is not alone in recognising the marketing value of mining online consumer buzz. Among other retail giants tuning into the chat are Wal-Mart Stores and Amazon.com.
These firms - and others - mine billions of social-media conversations and customer product reviews, using the information as a quality-control system, asserting that the data offers insights into supply-chain snafus, flawed products and poorly-written instruction manuals.
Says Greg Hall, Walmart.com's vp of marketing: "We're using that real-time feedback to help suppliers improve products faster."
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