Retailers must be more than friends on Facebook

Getting customers to become fans of your business is not enough.

A study conducted by Gfk NOP, on behalf of customer experience consultants RightNow, has shown that, while consumers are seeking closer, socially enabled interactions with retailers, what they receive is different to what they expect.

The study showed that 46% of consumers have become Facebook “fans” of retailers purely to engage in post-purchase activity including: receiving service notifications, hints and tips, and to provide feedback.

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Yet, only 4% of consumers who have shopped online in the past year have ever received a service-related interaction with a retailer through a social networking site. These statistics illustrate a significant opportunity for retailers to engage more deeply with consumers via social channels and meet consumer expectations for value-added interactions such as customer support.

A further example of this misstep between socially enabled post-purchase support is manifest in the 66% of consumers who, having posted something critical on the social web about a service experience with a retailer, were not contacted as a follow-up from the company in question.

Asked about where they may share examples of poor service interactions with a retailer, the study’s respondents pointed to Facebook (both their own page and that of the retailer), Twitter, the retailer’s community, consumer forums and blogging as key channels through which to vent their disappointment. Expectations for a response are high too; 49% expect a response if they post negative feedback in a community, for Facebook it’s 36% and Twitter 32%.

The great news for retailers is that 20% of consumers are Facebook fans of specific retail brands and that 20% of those are followers simply because they love the brand. Again, the problem is that only 29% of retail fans have ever had an interaction on Facebook with the brand they follow.

Commenting on the study, Jason Mittelstaedt, chief marketing officer at RightNow, said: “Retailers are flocking to Facebook simply to have a presence there. But customers expect more. They expect to have a direct line to an employee who can help them out. Most Facebook pages aren’t set up to provide support, whether pre or post purchase, so loyal customers are slipping through the cracks.

That’s a lost opportunity for satisfaction and advocacy, and it’s a public record of interaction failure. Retailers must take advantage of the Facebook potential to have direct engagement with their most enthusiastic customers. Consumers are looking for a closer relationship with their favoured brands, by listening and interacting with them you are encouraging their loyalty.”



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