More and more consumers are using social networking sites to get the views of their peer group, but many also look for promotional offers and information on brand fan pages. This is a strong trend, at least among young people.

Just how great is the influence of social media on buying decisions? Recently, the
E-Tailing group reported  that only a third of all consumers went to these platforms to get information on products they were thinking of purchasing. But Ipsos Mori, which has done a study for IBM on this subject, reports that in fact more than half the people surveyed in Europesay they consult social websites before buying, whether in a shop or online. And 25% of these people regard this step as an essential one for actually finding products, looking for price information, opinions or promotional offers. This is the kind of information that suppliers need to take into account. "Social media are a new window through which retailers can offer a more individual customer experience via all the channels", underlines  Eric Daubé, Manager for Smarter Commerce at IBM.

Using the networks to reach the consumer

"By using real-time consumer data coming from user profiles, retailers can take on board what is being said in order to create a sales offer tailored to the customer’s profile, to his/her preferences and decisions, which will help to grow sales."  All the more so since, according to the study, 35% of those who follow a given brand on sites such as Facebook reckon this enables them to get more up-to-the-minute information and customer feedback, though a majority of them (57%) say they are most interested in getting free samples and price-reductions. What is also noteworthy is the increase in multi-channel consumerism, due to the increasing power of mobile devices. Making price comparisons via these terminals has practically become a must. More than half of all Internet users state that they have already used their smartphones in the purchasing process.

Multi-channel habits

Nearly seven out of ten people surveyed say that the phone enables them to make direct price comparisons. Around 40% like receiving coupons directly on their handsets. These statements should be taken seriously, given that four out of every ten purchases are still made in shops. But above all, 67% think that it’s vital to be able to place an order from one’s mobile.  And almost 40% say that in the long term there should be no difference at all whether you use a fixed line or a smartphone to place, change or view your order. Still, we should perhaps treat the results of this survey with some degree of caution because it targeted people aged 16 to 24, who are, as a general rule, much more used to the Internet and the social networks than other age groups.