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Survey: Shoppers Favor Retailers With Strong Social Media Skills

You’d be hard-pressed to find a retailer today that doesn’t have some semblance of a social media presence, but it’s no longer enough to just create an account and sporadically update it with information on promotions or photos of new products.

Today’s tech-savvy social shoppers expect brands and stores to engage them across all platforms with value-added posts and giveaways, encourage (and repurpose) user-generated content and respond to comments and queries. Rather than one-way communication, a social media strategy should be about opening up a two-lane dialog.

Basically, if you only build it, they will not come.

And while “likes” and followers don’t necessarily equate with revenue, maintaining an active social media presence can sway plugged-in shoppers’ spending decisions more than a company’s website can.

According to a recent report from Epsilon, people who incorporate social media into their shopping journeys rely on it both to improve their experience and to inform their purchase.

The global marketing agency surveyed more than 2,800 consumers for its “Digital Shopping Tool Impact Study 2015” and found that Facebook is most influential to their spending habits, followed by Pinterest and (somewhat surprisingly) Google+. Twitter, though much less persuasive overall, has some weight over Millennials.

This echoed the findings of an earlier report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which noted that 62 percent of respondents said social media interactions, in most cases, spurred them to spend more.

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“Social media by its nature involves distraction and nonlinear interaction and may be seen as unpredictable by both marketers and shoppers,” explained Kim Finnerty, senior vice president of research and insights at Epsilon. “However, our study shows that social media becomes both useful and influential precisely because there are so many ways to interact with it. Social as part of the shopping journey improves the experience and informs the purchase decision.”

Moreover, while PwC’s survey pointed out that 34 percent of consumers follow their favorite brands or retailers on social media, Epsilon reported that shoppers are more likely to use apps that belong to specific stores as a means of bridging the gap between the virtual and real worlds of shopping.

“To be most effective, it is important to understand how social sharing overlaps with your other digital tools, recognizing that this will vary by category, product and even shopper,” the report said. “This is a key way to influence the impulse shopping that can occur in short periods of downtime—and it can lead directly to purchase.”

Essentially, the path to purchase starts when something on social media piques the consumer’s interest, after which they turn to that store’s app to find out more information, read reviews or search for a coupon.

Finnerty added, “Rather than being spurred to action by a lucky encounter with a coupon, as was the case with previous generations, shoppers today take for granted that they can search for whatever they want and when they find it, they will also find a coupon.”