Study: Social Media Rates High But Fails to Drive Retail Web Traffic

Discussion
Feb 08, 2011
Tom Ryan

A survey by ForeSee Results found that just five percent of respondents
cite social media as the medium that "most influenced" them to visit
a retailer’s website. The number one response was familiarity with the brand,
mentioned by 38 percent, followed by promotional emails (19 percent). Search
engine results, word of mouth and ads (newspaper, TV, radio or magazine) were
each cited by eight percent.

Three percent cited blogs, while two percent named
both shopping comparison websites and product review websites.

The survey of
more than 10,000 online shoppers was part of its annual E-Retail Satisfaction
Index.

Asked how they preferred to hear about sales and promotions from retailers,
social media websites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) also came in low, with only
eight percent preferring this method of communication. First was promotional
e-mails (64 percent), followed by postal mail (25 percent), the company’s website
(21 percent), and TV (11 percent). Ten percent "don’t want communications" with
retailers. Scoring even lower than social media was mobile phone text messages
or alerts (5 percent) and radio (3 percent).

Though only eight percent
said social media was their preferred way to hear from retailers, more than
half seem to be willing to connect with retailers in some way on social media.
When asked which social media site would be their first choice, 40 percent
chose Facebook, followed by Twitter (4 percent), LinkedIn, MySpace, and "another
website not listed"(all at 2 percent),
and Flickr (1 percent). Still, forty seven percent ranked "none" as
the first choice of communications via social media.

More encouraging for social
media, when asked to rate the Facebook presence of the Top 40 retailers (by
sales volume), the average score was 80. That’s higher than the average rating
of 78 given to those retailers’ websites and also well above the rating of
64 given to Facebook itself.

"This is a bit confusing, but basically, people are more satisfied with
retailers’ Facebook pages than they are with the retail websites themselves
or with Facebook itself," wrote Mr. Freed. "This information could
mean that while Facebook stumbles as a website, it provides retailers with
a valuable customer touchpoint that can actually be very satisfying."

Mr.
Freed concluded that the retail industry "shouldn’t give short shrift
to tried-and-true online marketing tactics in favor of newer media." Indeed,
he said "serious thought" should be taken to see if social media
is worth the investment.

"If the answer is yes, they need to make the most of it by making sure
that interactions on social media meet the needs and expectations of customers.
Otherwise, the effort is wasted and could even be detrimental to the business," he
said.

Discussion Question: What do you make of the ForeSee Results study and its conclusions? Would you expect these results to change if re-tested a year from now? How should retailers currently be integrating with Facebook?

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17 Comments on "Study: Social Media Rates High But Fails to Drive Retail Web Traffic"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

I take these types of surveys with a grain of salt because most consumers have no clue what influences them to take certain actions via the social media. It’s not as black and white as one would imagine. Influence is often indirect and matures with time and repetition.

Dan Gilmore
Guest
Dan Gilmore
10 years 3 months ago

As I have been saying for a couple of years here, social media as a social and general communications force is obviously quite strong and likely to grow and morph in numerous ways.

Social media as a commercial force is dubious at best and often down right silly, driven by marketing consultants on the hunt for the next big thing for their clients.

As I have done before, I will ask here again: how many brands/products do you interact with on social media? None? Oh, me either. Or my wife. Or anyone else we know. But surely everyone else must be doing it.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 3 months ago

It’s hard to argue with the notion that social media’s impact is a lot lower than the hype based on the results of this survey. It’s also true that, according to surveys, Dewey beat Truman. In other words, this is another data point in a very complex trend.

My sense is that social media is in the very early stages of becoming an important factor in driving business. As boomer spending wanes and Gen X and Y grow in importance, social media will (IMHO) become increasingly important.

Fabien Tiburce
Guest
Fabien Tiburce
10 years 3 months ago

There is a very fine line between engaging with customers and being perceived as intrusive and annoying in the social space. Marketing departments should be careful not to cross this line; doing do will backfire. By and large, people do not want to be “sold” anything in the “sanctity” of their social space. Educated and engaged, yes. Sold, no. So use the social medium to create a buzz, to share news, to show the more social and “humane” aspect of your brand (your community involvement for example). Be careful using it to “sell.” Most products are “oversold” by marketers who fail to build a three-dimensional story around the brand.

Warren Thayer
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

Some retailers connect with consumers very well via Facebook. Check out Whole Foods on Facebook, and click on its wall.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
10 years 3 months ago

A friend sent me a bunch of ads a while back from the early 1900s in which marketers were trying sell companies on the idea of buying phones for their offices. The ads worked to convince readers that, contrary to what some were saying, telephones weren’t just novelties and time wasters and could actually bring new benefits to companies who invested in them.

Sound familiar?

We can’t continue to judge the value of social marketing according to the causal relationships between older forms of marketing.

Are we saying that because my Facebook presence doesn’t deliver click through on my website that it’s of less value? Isn’t that kind of like saying because the Model T Ford didn’t gallop and eat oats it was inferior to a horse?

This is a new channel and we need to evaluate it according to the NEW benefits and consumer behaviors it can deliver.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

What marketers are looking for in social media is the same kind of response and interaction that they experienced in mass media. It will not happen. The driver and success of social media is predicated on the power of the individual to choose friends, information and communication.

Marketers do not want that power in the consumers’ hands. Marketers want to influence the consumer. They do not want the consumer to influence them. The power of social media is in the hands of the receiver. In essence, it is the power of not answering your phone when you know who is calling.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

Gosh!

Social media doesn’t work the same way traditional media does!

Who’d a thunk it?

This kind of research makes my head hurt. When it comes to social media, smart marketers know that the best they can do is initiate the discussion and get out of the way.

Control is a way 20th Century marketing concept.

My favorite example (for today–after all social media is a fluid environment–is Best Buy’s Facebook site, a classic example of Controlled Marketing thinking.

The page is full of complaints, each followed by a nice note from Best Buy suggesting the person get off Facebook and go through the traditional online complaint process.

It’s not very “social” to suggest that you exit a community.

The reason people don’t get great results on social media is because they don’t know how to use it.

Joel Rubinson
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

Social media is about building a relationship, not generating a click. It is also much more complex than a univariate look. For example, suppose Facebook is used to recruit people to micro-site where they download a shopping app. Would this type of research ever capture that sequence of events? No.

Brands need social media strategies, not a click-through rate.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
10 years 3 months ago
There is probably a unique demographic who are influenced by social networks although the survey does not really attempt to distinguish them. I am thinking of those people for whom social networking is an extension of their daily lives. I am thinking primarily of students, who use the social networking sites to extend their interaction beyond the time they are actually at school or to maintain contact with other students in a campus environment like college. These people are online for a significant time, chatting on a regular basis, and open to suggestions. This is why some companies have actually hired “influencers” to shape their social network presence. But I guess the challenge here might be that the younger students don’t have credit cards, so their online shopping must be limited. This factor would raise the significance of the social networks because this whole group would have been missed by the survey methodology. Although the person doing the online shopping may have never used the social network, the decision maker who asked for the particular… Read more »
Larry Negrich
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

The most interesting factoid in this survey is 47% cited “none” as their first choice for Social Media. This shows that Social Media has a lot of room to grow in adoption and influence. With the newness of social media it is not surprising that it ranked this low. This survey also cited “word of mouth” as most important by only 8% of respondents. If a friend recommends a product via a Facebook page, is that counted as word of mouth or social media?

Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
10 years 3 months ago

Establishing a hard ROI from social media is difficult, even as more retailers begin offering full-fledged e-commerce capability from their Facebook pages. However, the soft ROI is considerable in terms of heightening general brand awareness and providing a touchpoint in an area where consumers are spending more and more time. Many retailers probably ignored TV in the 1950s as well.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
10 years 3 months ago

It is early days for social media–we are just learning what is possible and what to do with it. It will take new thinking by retailers to make better connections, as the opportunities presented are overwhelming, but the right ones are not easy to identify. The significant value is the quality of interactive communication possible, actual direct and personal communication with consumers–very different from current CRM thinking and broadcast marketing.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
10 years 3 months ago

I’m with Dan Gilmore on this. I’m not convinced that the commercial potential for social media is everything that the buzz would have you believe. So this survey rings very true to me.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 3 months ago

Suggesting, I think, that we’re now moving from e-communications directly into mental telepathy, Doug seems to have read my mind…at least insofar as we can make an analogy between social media and the telephone: namely that HAVING a presence no longer confers any particular advantage…but NOT HAVING a presence confers a big disadvantage.

Gina Rau
Guest
Gina Rau
10 years 3 months ago
What this study says to me is that the potential is there for a retailer’s Facebook page to be a place to engage with their customers in conversations that are relevant to the customer’s lifestyle (not the retailer!) in ways that are fun, helpful or informative. This isn’t happening often, based on what I see. In Facebook, people are only truly following (haven’t “ignored”) brands that are a reflection of their lifestyle or beliefs, and to participate in conversations with them assumes that there is a high affinity with the brand. Right now, I see a lot of retailers promoting their message, rather than encouraging participation–here’s our specials, check out our product, or this is what’s new with us. I’m sorry but asking me what I love about you doesn’t make me want to stop what I’m doing and engage. The opportunity is there, but retailers need to approach social media strategically just like they would other mediums. It starts with having objectives and goals that you can track and measure against, and too often… Read more »
Neil Reay
Guest
Neil Reay
10 years 2 months ago
I think the big issue here is the idea that consumers and customers go to social media for social reasons–conversations, questions, sharing, activities and a sense of community and connectedness. Retailers, on the other hand, are interested in commerce, which is an inherently selfish orientation, not a social or sharing one. Like robbing banks because “that’s where the money is,” retailers go to social media sites because “that’s where the people are,” not caring that the people may have gathered there specifically to avoid commerce. The effect is inherently off-putting. If you go to dinner with a friend and find out it is a pitch for a multi-level business “opportunity,” it tends to disappoint and drive away. On a social website, retailers (and other businesses) should be gracious hosts–providing a meeting place, resources and some sense of purpose and direction (we talk about nutrition here, or child care, for example). Websites can be commerce-oriented, as customers expect you to promote yourself there. Let people mingle on the social website, and then provide lots of portals… Read more »
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