Customer-Service Marketers Getting Consumer Behaviour on Social Wrong?A new study from the Institute of Promotional Marketing has suggested that marketers are some way off the mark when it comes to understanding how consumers use social media and mobile to interact with brands.

The research found that many marketers overestimate how much consumers use technology for researching products and unnecessarily discount the power of traditional channels, such as direct mail.

 Marketers Getting Consumer Behaviour on Social Wrong?

The Marketing Gap tracking study was carried out by fast.MAP and looks at the gap between consumer behaviour and how marketers perceive it. This includes the use of loyalty schemes and their success, the effectiveness of free samples and the level of advice consumers seek from others when researching a product.

Underestimating Human Contact

Fast.MAP managing director David Cole said:

“I was disappointed that yet again marketers have underestimated the value of human contact, looking at customer service. There isn’t one consumer out there, there is a whole range, so they need to cater for traditional consumers, who are perhaps not as comfortable on the web.”

The study, which saw 1000 consumers and 350 marketers take part, found that the latter believed that more people favour customer support through email than actually do. Further to this, they underestimate the amount of people that like to contact a company via phone by about 7%.

Social-Media-Customer-Service Marketers Getting Consumer Behaviour on Social Wrong?

However, when assessing face-to-face contact, marketers were much more accurate about assessing the demand for it. Both email and landline were found to be the favoured route consumers take when they have a complaint or need advice and they would rather speak to someone in person than use a website.

Social Media not for Advice

It was also found that most marketers got it wrong when it comes to social media, believing that 8% of consumers prefer to use social, when in fact the figure was closer to 2%.

“Despite the belief among some marketers that their customers prefer to browse for answers on a website or have a live online chat, the reality is that behaviour is not changing that fast,”

said David Reed, editor of IDM’s Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice.

Despite this, it was also found that several big brands such as Xbox and Tesco have given customers the choice whether to use social media to discuss customer service issues by creating hashtags and separate Twitter accounts, set up solely with that purpose in mind.

Tablets and Mobile Shopping

When it comes to the use of technology, marketers fared no better in their predictions, with many assuming that people make use of laptops more than they actually do for shopping and customer service issues online.

Mobile too is overestimated it seems, with many suggesting a figure of around 3 times use a mobile device than actually do.

“Like everyone else, marketers judge reality based on their own experience. Many of them will have tablets and access the web via mobile, so they believe everyone else is doing the same, when in reality they are not. The nature of the industry is more embracing of technology and change and the people who are driving the industry are the innovators,”

said Cole at fast.MAP.

Slow Transition to complete Modern Channels

This means that for brands, making the transition from traditional contact methods to more modern channels should be a slow one, with brands adopting newer platforms such as social, but not yet abandoning phone and mail.

However, this doesn’t mean that the use of social, email, SMS and website support shouldn’t be promoted, it just signals that consumers are not keeping as abreast of the latest technology as we’d like to think.

The report noted that people prefer to ask advice from their friends when it comes to buying products or using companies online and this is where social media has its strength. WOM marketing is nothing new of course and could still be attributed to traditional channels, but social has transformed the way that it’s now done.

For a start, social has enabled a much larger audience for consumers to share information with and that isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

For marketers, and depending on the nature of the company they are marketing, it’s really a case of knowing your audience and getting a good balance, so that you can address them in ways that they are happy to interact with.