Retailers could lose customers if they misjudge social media

Three quarters (75%) of UK consumers expect retail brands and businesses to be using social media to improve their level of service, while 39% admit they will shun a brand if their social engagement is poor.

The study commissioned by retail technology specialists, HSO, found that 85% of consumers would anticipate a reply if they had posted a negative comment about a business while 74% would also expect a reply if they posted a positive comment. However, just 7% stated they would be confident of receiving a response from a retail brand when publishing a negative comment about a competitor.

The respondents also admitted that social media engagement has improved many personal experiences with retailers. Just under three quarters (71%) of those who have interacted online with a brand experienced a positive outcome while only 6% of the survey classed their response as 'poor'.

Hector Hickmott, Sales Director at HSO said: "The study highlighted that consumers expect brands to be engaging online, even though they may not always use this channel. It would be wise for retailers to be using social listening tools to support this function."

Furthermore, it was interesting to discover that although a customer's social media experience had generally been good, getting in touch with a brand via email was the preferred option among 61% of the sample. Making a phone call was the second most popular (19%) while social media interaction registered just 10% of the vote.

The study revealed a variety of customer experiences on social media, ranging from the disappointment at a lack of discrete gift packaging when ordering a luxury food product online, to a dissatisfied diner in a restaurant complaining about the speed of service. On both occasions the issues were successfully resolved by the business in question.

One consumer commented that 'posting on social media is often a quicker way to get a response from a brand as they don't want to damage their online reputation and it's open to the public. I couldn't get hold of a brand on the phone but received a tweet reply with the right number to call a few hours after tweeting them.'

"Consumers are using social media engagement for a number of reasons, from complaining about products to finding out further information. It is vital that retailers engage in the right way to enhance public perception, with many consumers admitting they would leave a brand if their social media activity was not engaging," said Hickmott.

Finally, the survey discovered that just under a third (32%) of consumers had purchased something online from a link that a brand had provided when responding to a purchasing query, representing a significant opportunity for engagement and sales.

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