92% of top 50 UK retailers use social media to engage customers and boost sales, new research finds

Ninety two per cent of the UK’s top 50 retailers are now active across social media platforms as they seek new ways to enhance sales, according to new research from imaging technology expert SpinMe.

The study looked at advanced online merchandising and selling techniques among retailers ranging across five categories – grocery, department stores, general merchandise, clothing and home improvement.

SpinMe found that many retailers are using social media to improve customer retention and encourage visits to both online and physical stores, and the majority – 88% – produce inspiring content including recipes, fashion tips, lifestyle imagery and videos. The remaining retailers use mainly Facebook and Twitter for practical online customer support.

Just over a quarter (28%) offer exclusive promotions to customers if they interact on social media, such as an instant discount in the process of checking out or the chance to win a voucher for retweeting or following.

All retailers using social channels have a Twitter and Facebook presence, while YouTube is used by 80%. 64% use Instagram and Google Plus.

Considering the increased usage of smartphones, with two thirds of UK adults owning one, the research showed 88% of retailers now have fully responsive, mobile optimised websites. Of these, 90% are transactional.

When examining payment options, Apple Pay is slowly making its mark. 16% already offer this option in a bid to make transactions smoother and faster. 48% allow consumers to use PayPal.

“Our research shows that advanced merchandising techniques, payment choice and true integration of social media are becoming mainstays of UK retail, in line with today’s customer expecting a broad and cohesive experience when they shop,” said David Brint, CEO at SpinMe. “Social media is not only a community space for loyal customers, it’s now a source of inspiration and direction on what to buy. Despite 16% of the top 50 retailers not selling online, they are still pushing products in creative ways and inspiring people to make a purchase.”

Looking at how the top 50 retailers display products, research found that 60% provide lifestyle content such as furniture or electrical goods placed in rooms to give customers the chance to see items in situ.

Half offer full screen viewing, allowing an image to take over the page, while 80% have zoom functions for customers to view products up close. 74% provide multiple images and just 6% provide a 360 degree spin function, where customers take control of an image and view a product from all angles. 10% of retailers provide videos on product pages, for example showing clothes on a catwalk or video game and film trailers.

SpinMe’s study also investigated levels of sophistication around search functions. 50% of retailers suggest alternative ideas when a search yields no results, however the rest provide no onward journey. Two thirds of retailers (68%) recommend related items when a customer is viewing a product.