Retailers fail to use Twitter for business purposes, finds study

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UK retailers are failing to use the micro-blogging website, Twitter, for business purposes, according to new research by Virgin Media Business.

Its survey, which coincides with Twitter’s fifth birthday on 15July 2011, explores retailer use of the social networking channel. 

Of the 500 UK retailers surveyed, only 9% said they have used Twitter for business purposes.

The internet has revolutionised retail, claim researchers. Online shopping continues to challenge the high street and social shopping, which includes group shopping marketplaces and recommendation engines, influences many consumer purchases, researchers add. However, a lack of engagement with seven million potential and existing customers seems to be a missed trick, they claim.

Many retailers have yet to capitalise on social media opportunities with only 36% using any of the existing platforms such as Facebook and blogs, the survey found

Emphasising the importance social networks can have on retailers, analytics company Experian Hitwise recently found one Facebook fan brings 20 additional visits to a typical retail website, reports Virgin Business Media.

There are examples of major retailers bucking the trend and taking full advantage of social engagement, the company adds. 

Of the top retail brand tweeters, eight of the top 10 are fashion retailers. Topshop has made a particular success of Twitter with 1.3m followers – proving the hunger for consumer-retailer engagement on Twitter exists, says Virgin Business Media.

Phil Stewart, customer service director at Virgin Media Business, said: “Since its founding, Twitter has changed the way we shop and engage with brands and, as such, has become a fantastic tool for customer engagement. People can now follow their brands, keep an eye out for latest deals and announcements, as well as share recommendations with friends or colleagues online.

“With sites such as Groupon and LoveThis championing the social shopping trend, it’s becoming the norm for many consumers to consult social networks first. 

“Whilst this behaviour could benefit e-tailers, companies must be aware  the internet will also become a home for customer queries and grievances as well. 

“In order to deal with this growth in customer interaction, a multi-channelled customer service approach is necessary to ensure all customers receive a quick and consistent response, regardless of whether they chose to get in touch by email, Instant Messaging, social networks, or the good old fashioned telephone.”