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GUEST OPINION How consumers really want to interact with e-tailers

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A survey from social wall specialists Miappi has revealed a shift in the way digital consumers want to connect with brands. Here’s what you need to know, says the company’s Toby Britton

A new survey and whitepaper from social wall specialists Miappi have revealed an ongoing shift in how digital consumers want to connect with brands online. The results thrown up by this fresh data demonstrate a need for e-commerce and digitally-oriented businesses to review and tweak their digital strategies to ensure they continue to deliver what their target markets want.

But what, exactly, do consumers want from digital brands in 2017? And how can businesses continue to cater to the constantly evolving needs of online audiences? We delve into the data and take a closer look at the ever-shifting landscape to offer a few helpful pointers which will help your brand remain engaging, visible and relevant online.

What’s changed?

During the social media “boom years”, consumers flocked to their favourite brands’ social media accounts, interacting and connecting with a relative lack of cynicism. But it doesn’t take long for humans to become jaded – those halcyon social media days are now rather faded.

Over-exposure to digital advertising and marketing, as well as endless brand-owned accounts to follow, have led to social media fatigue. Tired of promotional tweets and sponsored posts, users are now more interested in content they can “trust” – that created by their peers. When it comes to sourcing information and content directly from brands themselves, consumers are increasingly returning to brand websites.

The data

Miappi’s data clearly demonstrates these important shifts in online behaviour. A stark majority (66%) of respondents stated they were now more likely to connect with their favourite brands via a brand website. A much more meagre 36% stated that they preferred to connect via Facebook, with just 17% claiming to favour Twitter.

A shift from social

This shift away from social stems from a number of factors. Ever-increasing monetisation of platforms has made advertising more and more prevalent, cluttering up feeds with promotional content. Social, as the name suggests, is about recreation and interaction – not bombardment with one-way, aggressive advertising.

With fresh platforms emerging seemingly every other week, keeping up with brands across all channels is now more time consuming than ever. According to Miappi’s survey, 55% of users follow their favourite brands on just one channel; only 25.5% follow on two channels and just 10.5% follow on three or more.

This is by no means to say that social is no longer relevant or central to digital strategy. As a gateway to connecting with audiences and generating both interactions and user-generated content, it’s unparalleled. It’s how social content is used and presented which needs to change. With shifting consumer attitudes and behaviours, brands must keep up, making their social presences less disparate, more centralised and more user-focussed…

Peers, please!

User-generated content is at the heart of social media’s value. And it’s also a key part of what today’s digital consumers want from brands. Tired of pushy promotions, it’s the voices of industry influencers, favourite bloggers and peers (AKA “real people) which interest, engage and compel users.

Just 22.5% of respondents to the Miappi study stated that they would like to see purely brand-owned content on businesses’ websites. By contrast, 54% claimed that “a blend of brand-owned and user generated content” would be best.

Participants were also keen to see their own content featured on brand websites. 31.5% of those surveyed stated that they’d be excited to see their content shared on a brand hub, with 30% likely to share their exposure via social media. 40% of respondents aged 18-29 even claimed that this sort of exposure would make them trust a brand more.

Riding the wave

So how can brands take this information and use it to sculpt their digital presence to work for today’s audiences? A few steps are clearly necessary for businesses keen to “get it right”:

  • Brands need “homes”. One well-presented, well-maintained centralised source of content is a must for brands– it’s time to re-invest in brand websites.

  • Social needs to be consolidated. It may be a content goldmine and a good mouthpiece, but disparate accounts and scattered messages need to be brought together to craft a polished presence.

  • Users need voices. With growing distrust in brand-owned content (and the content marketing wave over-saturating the web), it’s content from peers which needs to come to the fore to attract and persuade consumers.

Build something better

It may be just one part of the puzzle, but adding a social wall to your brand hub is an easy and elegant way to tick many of the evolving boxes of consumers. A good-looking and curate-able space for presenting both brand-owned and user-generated content on a brand website, social walls allow brands to re-embrace their website, while still benefiting from a social media presence and actively engaging users.

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