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New Report Advises Retailers to “Focus on Facebook”

Although social media has been a hot button for retailers, it seems that 2010 is the year for social commerce to materialize. In an effort to better understand consumer perception and social media habits, ForeSee Results conducted a research study of nearly 10,000 visitors to the most popular U.S. e-tail sites.

“Everyone is talking about social media, and there are lots of opinions about how to do it right,” said Kevin Ertell, VP of Retail Strategy, ForeSee Results and author of the report. “We thought it was important to check in with customers to get their thoughts.” The survey aimed to answer questions like: How do they interact with retailers via social media? How would they prefer to interact? What value are they seeking from their interactions with retailers via social media?

The study found that social media could be validated as a viable marketing strategy when retailers understand what consumers want. ForeSee Results used the methodology of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) to examine these issues. The ACSI is able to show how different elements of a shopper’s interactions with a company (including on social media) impact their purchase intent, loyalty and recommendations, according to the report.

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Key findings include:

•  56% of shoppers to top e-tail Web sites who interact with social media websites have elected to “friend” or “follow” or “subscribe” to a retailer on a social networking site like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

•  Facebook is, by far, the best place to reach shoppers — both because it’s where they already are, and it’s where they want to hear from retailers.

•  Customers mainly interact with retailers on social media sites to learn about products and promotions.

Of the 69% of online shoppers who say they use social media sites, more than half (56%) choose to proactively interact with companies on social sites by “friending” or “following” at least one retailer. “This is an amazing testament to customer loyalty and interest in social engagement,” Ertell said in the report. “Shoppers are actually choosing to engage in relationships with retailers on social sites.”

The report stresses Facebook as prime real estate for customer engagement. More than half of all online shoppers surveyed frequent Facebook. Among online shoppers who engage in social media, more than 80% are using Facebook.

But the report found that about 25% of the Top 100 online retailers (by sales volume) do not have any formal Facebook presence. Another 25% of the retailers from that list have fewer than 10,000 fans.

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How “Fans” Fare
Although “engagement” is the broad term used most to describe the opportunity for retailers on Facebook, the study found that more people use social networking with retailers to learn about sales and product information. 49% of respondents who “friend” or “follow” companies through social media do so to find out about special deals options. 45% of respondents use social media to learn about products. While more retailers employ social media to answer customers’ technical questions, the study found that only 5% of respondents use social media primarily for customer support.

In the report, Ertell advises retailers to find out more about their customers and what they are looking for from you. “Find out how satisfied they are with your current social media efforts and how likely they are to purchase, return and recommend your business as a result of your interactions,” he said in the report. “There’s a lot about social media and online marketing initiatives that is really hard to figure out, but asking customers what they want from you is a great way to begin.”

Click here to download “The Key to Driving Retail Success With Social Media.”

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