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Just 9% of shoppers follow brands through social media and only 6% actually make a purchase

Just 9% of shoppers follow brands through social media and only 6% actually make a purchase


A new report aimed at assessing how UK adults use social media and mobile commerce in their buying behaviour has been launched by Shoppercentric, an independent agency specialising in shopper research.


The findings aim to provide a new perspective on the commercial impact of the technology and communications changes taking place.


The overarching message among the findings is that there are opportunities for retailers and brands through social media and mobile commerce. However getting it right is trickier than it seems. Currently just 9% of consumers are following brands on social media and just 6% make a purchase. Just over a third (37%) of respondents said they didn’t see the point of brands using social media and 18% said the same of retailers.


The research also indicated that there are major changes that retailers and brands need to note about the differences between the way men and women shop – 38% of men have a smartphone (compared to 29% of women) and 60% of women use Facebook (compared to 52% of men). However, while the m-commerce trend seems to have a made a real connection with men and shopping, for example 14% of men use phone apps that support shopping (compared with *% of women); women have yet to become as engaged with brands and retailers through their preferred medium of social networking.


Brands losing mindshare


Other key trends included the finding that only one in three consumers visit brand websites nowadays, compared to three in four visiting retailer websites. Neither have the same impetus to talk directly to brands as they do to talk directly with retailers. A further 63% of consumers visit a retailers or brands website to make a purchase compared with the 6% who do so through social media.


The main reason for consumers wanting to reach out to and connect with a company through social media is to find out something new (32%). Men and women were both equally as likely to want brand/retailers to connect with them (23%) as they were to want brand/retailers to sell to them (24%). Interestingly, 12% also wanted the brands/retailers to help them have more fun.


The most popular thought from respondents as to why they think brands/retailers were present on social media, and perhaps unsurprisingly, was that they were there to sell more products (54 percent). Nearly half (43%) also thought that both were there “because everyone else is”.


The biggest reason for consumers to follow a brand/retailer on social media was to feel part of a group (32%). A further 29% also follow them to share thoughts and be a part of a forum. To get discounts, vouchers or promotions attracted just 10% to contact the company and 6% joined to make a complaint.


As to usage, the most popular social networking platform was Facebook with 56%. And 27% of male consumers visited price comparison sites compared with 19% of women.


Youth embraces social loyalties


Just over a third (38%) of 16-24 year olds admitted to already following brands/retailers on social media. This figure reduces as the age groups get older: 29% of 25-34 year olds, 18% of 35-44 year olds, 8% of 45-54 year olds, and respondents aged 55+ years said they weren’t following any. Just over half (56%) of the 55+ age group added that they just didn’t see the point in doing it.


“The use of social networking and mobile commerce in the business context is still in its early stages of development,” said Danielle Pinnington, managing director at Shoppercentric. “However, as these figures are suggesting, the gender and age divides between these social and mobile platforms could be put to good use by retailers to better target and engage their customers.


“There also seems to be a fundamental barrier in consumers minds as to why they should communicate directly with a brand, or why a brand would want to communicate directly with them. That doesn’t mean they won’t communicate with brands, it simply means brands need to work much harder to set up and maintain the connection. Brands need to think hard about what they want to share, not just what they want to get out of the conversation. And they need to work on the basis they have to seek out these connections rather than assuming consumers/shoppers will come to them. Ultimately they need to create a social network space which generates curiosity in the brand, and gives a reason for visitors to keep coming back.”


“This latest report gives us valuable insight into how different customers today are embracing social media and the impact that it is having on how they both search for product information and make buying decisions,” said Dr Susan Rose, associate professor in marketing management at the Henley Business School. “As we move to a truly connected world, retailers are faced with a bewildering array of new media such as Twitter and Facebook. This report helps us to understand this new customer meeting place.”