Over a third (36%) of consumers would use social media to complain about a product or service. This compared favourably to 30% who would use an online complaints form; 18% who opted for visiting the store and just 14% who preferred the more traditional approach of a telephone call.

The survey also revealed that the primary use of social media for engagement was: ‘to make a complaint about a product or service’, referenced by more than six out of ten (61%) of respondents. This far outweighed the 27% who said they used it ‘for more information about store/product’ and the 23% who said they did so ‘to look for discounts and promotions’.

Hector Hickmott, sales director at HSO, which conducted the survey, said: “These figures show that the traditional picture of a customer simply picking up the phone and talking directly with a call centre agent about an issue or problem is increasingly outmoded.

“Retailers need to be aware of this shifting consumer landscape and ready and willing to engage with their customers in the way their customers want to engage and interact - which is increasingly online and over social media.”

While these results highlight the need for organisations to react quickly in order to address and deal with complaints efficiently, the survey also underlines the opportunity for businesses to use social media as a tool for proactive engagement with customers.

The influence that social media already exerts over consumer purchases comes across clearly from the survey results. Just 37% of the survey sample said they had never bought a product based on what they had seen on a social media channel. Facebook was the most influential channel, with nearly one-third of respondents (32%) saying they had bought a product based on what they had seen there. Instagram was next (referenced by 27%), followed by YouTube (25%), Twitter (16%), Pinterest (13%), and Snapchat trailing well behind, with just 2% citing it as an influencer of a previous purchase.

The survey results indicate, however, that this ranking is likely to change over time. 16-24-year-olds are most influenced by Instagram, with 70% of the sample in this age category, saying they had previously bought a product based on what they had seen there.

The HSO research also indicates that there may be broad interest in the future among the public in purchasing directly from a retailer through a social media channel. Nearly one in three respondents (29%) said they would either definitely do this, or would consider doing it for some purchases.

“Most retailers today understand the potential of social media channels to strongly influence sales,” said Hector Hickmott.“Many fewer see social media as a direct facilitator of those sales. However, with nearly a third of the sample saying that they would be open to this, at the very least for some purchases, there is clearly an appetite from the public for this kind of service.”


By Jonathan Davies, editor, Digital Marketing Magazine

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