While much of the marketing community is focused on sealing better relationships between brands and consumers via social media, a new study from Pitney Bowes suggests that their efforts would be better spent in other areas.
In fact, the new study -- based on a survey of 5,000 consumers in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany -- found social media to be one of the least effective engagement techniques for encouraging customer loyalty for larger and small businesses alike.
The survey found that just 18% of the respondents believed that interaction with a larger company or its brands on social media would encourage them to buy from that business again.
The social media approach was deemed even less effective for smaller businesses, where just 15% of those responding said it would encourage their loyalty to a company.
“These findings will give decision-makers pause for thought,” the report stated. “Businesses can be forgiven for getting swept away by the hype of surrounding social media and wanting to invest in such activity as soon as possible. ... But results show that those businesses tempted to lead with such techniques will quickly find themselves out of step with customer thinking.”
Conversely, several other techniques are far more likely to resonate with consumers and encourage them to do repeat business with companies. They include a home-delivery option; having a say in products and services; control of channels and frequency of received communications and a choice of channels to contact a company. In each case, nearly half or more of the respondents said those tactics were preferred and effective for small and large businesses alike.
“All of these practices are aimed at increasing brand loyalty and retaining customers,” the Pitney Bowes survey summary states. "However, sophisticated social media and Web interaction can be time-consuming and expensive and outcomes are difficult to measure. .. Businesses are quickly having to learn the ‘customer dance’ -- when to lead and when to follow -- if relationships are to be nurtured.”