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Study Shows Facebook’s Retail Appeal


Everyone in the world of marketing whether you are online or offline (or hopefully the right combination of the two) wants to better define social media and its uses. Different sectors or verticals see how the various social media tools impact their particular type of business and no two seem to act alike. Much of that has to do with having too little real data to draw firm conclusions from and the learning curve that is occurring on the customer side of this equation.

One sector that is well suited for the social media game is the retail industry. If you are a retail outlet of any kind, high end or low end or all stops in between, social media has proven its worth more quickly than say the B to B space. A study released by ForeSee Results helps to show this and it also shows that the social media outlet, or tool, that is showing the greatest promise is Facebook. This study is taken from the customers’ point of view and was performed by the retail arm of ForeSee’s practice.

As part of a study of nearly 10,000 visitors to the biggest e-retail websites in the United States, ForeSee Results wanted to use the methodology of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) to examine these issues, because 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.

What we found is validation that social media is a viable marketing strategy when we understand what our customers want and know which social media platforms they frequent.

While that last statement in and of itself doesn’t state anything new some of the actual findings are of interest.

  • 56% of shoppers to top e-retail websites 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—a marketer’s dream come true.

It’s the last point that needs to be focused on and has been noted here in the past as well. While we like to talk about brands and how people interact with brands and associate themselves with brands let’s face it: people want a deal. The type of brand loyalty that is desired and discussed is a lot more theory than reality. It makes for good blog posts but the main reason why people use social media is because they want something from the brands they follow: discounts. Not very sexy is it but it’s the truth.

What is the main reason you interact with this company through social media sites? (% of respondents)

Learn about sales / special offers 49%

Learn about products 45%

Get customer support 5%

Other reason (please specify): 1%

The study also told us that 81% of shoppers you are users of social media use Facebook regularly while only 16% of that same group said the same for Twitter. For those who are online shoppers but not regular users of social media still 56% of those people use Facebook and only 11% use Twitter. And as you can see, at least as far as retail is concerned Twitter has some work to do and the whole customer support thing hasn’t caught on yet.

So Facebook is the place to be but it appears that full adoption of this practice is not quite there. One quarter of the top online retailers had no Facebook presence while another quarter had less than 10,000 fans. It feels like the same conversation that has occurred for years with the Fortune 500 and blogging. Everyone likes to talk a great game but the execution is often lacking.

So what’s the takeaway here? People who are fans of brands historically are the most likely to be friends or followers in the social media space. What do they want? They want a deal. They want to be treated separately from the rest of the retail customer base of a brand because they are a ‘fan’ of the brand. So while putting together really cool ‘user experience’ type pages and sites might have a WOW factor, the one social media practice that falls to the bottom line is as old as the retail game itself: customers respond to deals.

Let us know if your experience validates or contradicts this study. Let us know if you agree or disagree. Just let us know. Oh and by the way make sure to visit the Marketing Pilgrim Facebook page and be our ‘friend’. Maybe we’ll discount something someday (usually it’s my opinion that is discounted but I’m working on that).