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Social media’s effect on retail loses ground


A global report by Capgemini, a leading provider of consulting, technology and outsourcing services, claims that consumers consider social media a less important part of their customer journey — from awareness, through to post-sale activity — compared to two years ago.

The second edition of the global “Digital Shopper Relevancy Report,” which surveyed more than 18,000 digital shoppers from 18 countries to provide insight into the changing nature of shoppers’ online retail habits, shows that conversely, smartphone shopping has grown in importance in the same period. The report also highlights that the Internet is now globally the preferred channel to inform retail decisions (over all other channels, including stores), with 75% of consumers saying it was important or very important to shopping research.

According to the report, compared to 2012, less importance is being placed on following retailers on social media (such as Twitter and Facebook), finding out about new products through blogs, and participating in online retail customer communities. The responses of global shoppers indicate not only a decline compared with the study two years ago, but also demonstrate that social media is less important to the shopper journey compared with conventional retail store experiences, Web, smartphone, email or the use of technologies in-store.

"Despite the surge in Facebook’s ad revenues and marketing innovations like Twitter’s new ‘Buy’ button, there is definitely a question mark over where and how ‘social’ fits into the shopper journey,” explained Kees Jacobs, global digital proposition lead, Capgemini Digital Customer Experience. “Social media is most relevant in the ‘awareness’ and ‘choice’ phases of shopping journeys (which is especially the case in fashion) but much less in ‘transaction, delivery and post-sales’. Our report suggests that retailers still have work to do at every stage of the purchasing journey in order to make social media play a useful, valuable role in buying a product or service."

Capgemini’s survey shows that for point-of-sale the physical store is still the favored destination for global shoppers, but only just, with the Internet trailing slightly. When carrying out retail transactions, 72% of shoppers see the store as important or very important compared to 67% for the Internet. Only 14% of shoppers strongly indicate that physical stores have become less important for them. However, in the future, the majority of shoppers (51%) say they will spend more money online than in-store. In addition to the smartphone’s ubiquitous growth, in-store digital interactions (via kiosks) are popular among shoppers, suggesting that the introduction of more technology into retail stores would be a welcome shift for the consumer.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Sector-wise, the fashion industry has registered a 9% growth in online purchasing preference, suggesting that apparel companies have made significant strides when it comes to engaging consumers across digital channels

  • There is an expectation that the online price will be lower than in-store or even in catalogs: 72% agree or strongly agree. This is consistent across all markets

  • 65% expect the option of ordering direct from brand manufacturers to increase in the coming years. 53% also expect an increase in ordering direct from the manufacturer via an app

  • The traditional contact center continues its slow decline in importance across all parts of the buying journey, perhaps most surprisingly post-purchase. A third (30%) rates it ‘not at all important’ in tracking an order, and a quarter see it adding little value when seeking help with a new product.

  • In terms of future innovation, shoppers agree that QR codes(45%), Internet of Things such as intelligently connecting devices lie ‘smart’ fridges (44%) and Wearable Devices such as Google Glass or Apple Watch (42%) will grow in importance in the shopping journey

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