May 20, 2010, 4:23 PM

43% of social network users buddy up with retailers on the sites

56% of consumers say they use social networking sites and 43% that they interact with retailers on those sites to nab promotions and review recommendations, according to a survey this month by business management consultants Deloitte LLP

56% of consumers say they use social networking sites and 43% say they interact with retailers on the sites to nab promotions and review recommendations, according to a poll this month by business management consultants Deloitte LLP. 64% of consumers who follow retailers do so to find out about promotions, 48% browse products and 35% review recommendations on social networks. And when it comes to online product reviews across all web sites, 51% say that an online review has influenced their decision to make a purchase and 50% say a review helped persuade them not to buy.

The poll of 1,052 consumers also found that while 33% of consumers are purchasing more online compared with a year ago. It also showed the web has become an integral part of the in-store shopping experience too, with 75% of consumers saying they to look online for store, price or product information before, or even while, shopping in a store.

Consumers also are gaining more confidence in the economy. 55% think the economy has started to recover from the recession, and 64% say their household financial situation is the same or better compared with a year ago.  In addition, 63% plan to spend the same or more with retailers this year than they did in 2009.

Still, Deloitte reports shoppers are still conscious of economic risks.  54% say rising energy prices could cause them to curb spending in the coming months and 45% say higher taxes and 41% say lack of improvement in the job market could do the same. About 27% believe that the economy is recovering but may fall back into a recession.

“Consumers appear to be picking up on the signals that point to brighter days ahead,” says Stacy Janiak, vice chairman and Deloitte’s retail leader in the United States. “The majority of those surveyed indicate their net worth is stabilizing, if not improving. While consumers remain vigilant in this recovery, retailers should be encouraged by consumers’ tone as they plan for the critical fall and winter selling seasons.”

However, retailers’ efforts to get buyers in the door have not gone unnoticed, the poll finds.
50% surveyed believe retailers are currently offering more sales or deals in response to the recession. However, shoppers are also noticing the cuts retailers had to make to offer such incentives. 53% believe there is less sales help in stores today, and 43% notice less inventory in stores.

Some of the frugal shopping habits that consumers picked up during the recession are lingering, the poll also finds. 45% of consumers surveyed said they shopped at certain stores to save money during the recession, and approximately 70% will continue to do so even if their finances improve.

“The recession may have altered the dynamics of the retail environment; however, given consumers’ recent spending activity and improving outlook, retailers should keep a sharp focus on the consumer’s shopping behavior and invest in areas that may drive loyalty in the months ahead,” Janiak says.  She says retailers should consider expanding their customer analytics capabilities to make merchandising, staffing and inventory decisions that enable them to adapt to shifts in customer demand. Retailers may also be able to apply these insights to localize their inventory, promotions and pricing to deliver a more customized shopping experience, she adds.

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