Retailers fail to follow up with shoppers on social networks

RightNow: retailers must become Facebook fans

Consumers are seeking closer, socially-enabled interactions with retailers but what they receive is vastly different from what they expect.

That’s the key finding of new research from RightNow, the customer experience specialist.

Its study, conducted with 1,000 consumers by GfK NOP, found 46% of consumers have become Facebook fans of retailers purely to engage in post-purchase activity including receiving service notifications, hints and tips and to provide feedback.

However, only 4% of consumers who have shopped online in the past year have received service-related interaction with a retailer through a social networking site.

According to RightNow, these statistics illustrate an opportunity for retailers to engage with consumers via social channels and meet consumer expectations for value-added interactions such as customer support.

Further evidence of the lack of post purchase support on social networks is highlighted by the 66% of consumers who, having posted something critical on the social web about a service experience with a retailer, were not contacted as a follow up from the company in question.

Asked about where they may share examples of poor service interactions with a retailer, the study’s respondents pointed to Facebook (both their own page and that of the retailer); Twitter; the retailer’s community; consumer forums and blogging as key channels through which to vent their disappointment.

Expectations for a response are high too; 49% expect a response if they post negative feedback in a community. On Facebook it’s 36% and Twitter 32%.

The good news for retailers is 20% of consumers are Facebook fans of specific retail brands and 20% of those are followers simply because they love the brand. However, only 29% of retail fans have ever had an interaction on Facebook with the brand they follow.

Jason Mittelstaedt, chief marketing officer at RightNow, said: “Retailers are flocking to Facebook simply to have a presence there. But customers expect more. They expect to have a direct line to an employee who can help them out.

“Most Facebook pages aren’t set up to provide support, whether pre- or post-purchase, so loyal customers are slipping through the cracks. That’s a lost opportunity for satisfaction and advocacy, and it’s a public record of interaction failure.

“Retailers must take advantage of the Facebook potential to have direct engagement with their most enthusiastic customers. Consumers are looking for a closer relationship with their favoured brands, by listening and interacting with them you are encouraging their loyalty.”