Customer Experience News & Trends

Social media’s impact on the buying experience now

Social media has a bigger impact on customers’ decisions to buy than ever. Are you capitalizing on the opportunities this presents?

New research by McKinsey & Company uncovered five trends impacting the customer experience and your bottom line.

From their research of 20,000 customers, across 30 product areas and more than 100 brands, here’s what you need to know:

1. Customers look and listen

Recommendations on social media induced about 25% of purchases across all kinds of product types. That’s about a 10% increase in purchases made based on social media recommendations from the previous year. But the depth of the influence differed.

Social media recommendations played a critical, direct role in about 66% of purchases, researchers found. For the other third, social media comments had a smaller impact, usually in the early decision-making touch points such as when a friend or relative made the customer aware of a product or service or helped them compare it to something else.

What you can do: Put yourself out there on as much social media as you can support. Customers expect immediate access and responses in social media. If you can’t support that level of service, step back until you can.

2. The product and service matter

Customers look to social media chatter at varying degrees based on the product or service they’re buying, the researchers found. Only about 15% of customers said they used social media when choosing a utility service. On the other end of the spectrum, about half of customers check in on social media when they’re making travel plans, investing or choosing over-the-counter drugs.

What you can do: Give customers all the information they need to make right-fit decisions on your products. Display all comments — good and bad — plus industry accomplishments and information on any setbacks, like recalls. Customers need the full view.

3. Interest wanes

Once customers buy, they apparently rely on their own opinions more. New customers are 50% more likely to turn to social media for recommendations than a repeat buyer.

What you can do: Once customers buy, customer experience pros want to keep them engaged. Create social media sharing between customers by starting conversations about different ways to use your products. Customers can learn from each other how to maximize their purchases.

4. Know your superusers

Turns out, 10% of the active social media influencers — those who share opinions and recommendations at least periodically — account for almost 25% of total recommendations, “likes,” tweets and so on. It’s significantly higher in the shoes and clothing industry, where these “superusers” accounted for 45% of the social influence, researchers found.

What you can do: Researchers found there’s a big crowd of less active social media users who could be spurred into a more active role. The key again is getting them engaged with the product or service, and other customers, by sparking conversations that allow them to share unique insights on product or service use.

5. Personal recommendations matter

Despite all the activity in social media, offline, personal recommendations were still 40% more likely than digital activity to influence purchase decisions in some categories, like insurance, researchers found. The impact was less in other categories, but still significant.

What you can do: When you have the opportunity to interact directly with customers — sales visits, service calls, focus groups — ask customers if they’d recommend your product or service. When they say “yes,” ask them to do it — or request the name of a friend or colleague whom you can contact with their approval.

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