November 19, 2013, 10:44 AM

Social media interactions breed loyal customers

Online retailers that attract the most return shoppers also lead the pack in winning Facebook fans and Twitter followers, data show.

Lead Photo

Retailers with the most loyal online customers have something social in common: networks of fans that are three times larger than the average.

A look at new versus return shopper data for the 500 largest online merchants in North America reveals that the e-retailers bringing in a high percentage of repeat shoppers—84% or more of their total customer base—are also adept at attracting fans on Facebook and Twitter.

The median number of Facebook Likes among the 10 most re-shopped retailers in North America is 311,761, around 180% higher than the median of the Top 500 as a whole, which is 111,521, data show. Similarly, the median number of Twitter followers for the top 10 is 27,800 versus 7,738 for the group.

For the Top 10, the median percentage of repeat shoppers is 86%—far ahead of the 55% median of the entire 500.

The correlation between a large social following and lots of repeat customers is no coincidence, says Doug Rose, the senior vice president of marketing and programming for home shopping network QVC. Being social helps QVC to go beyond simply satisfying customers, he says. By also providing credible, expert content, QVC builds trust with its customers, who in turn become loyal to the brand. “Don’t confuse customer satisfaction with trust,” he says. “You can’t automate trust. You can’t write code that creates trust. It takes people.”

QVC, which is a unit of Liberty Interactive Corp., No. 5 in the Top 500 offers customers multiple ways to interact with it socially, which eventually pays off with increased sales later, Rose adds. “We have active communities of shopping experts,” including show hosts who entertain and inform shoppers about products, celebrity guests and QVC shoppers themselves, Rose says. They all engage with QVC through forums, on Facebook, via the retailer’s iPad apps and in its recently launched online community, toGather, he says.

Around 86% of Liberty Interactive’s online shoppers last year had purchased from the retailer before, according to

QVC comes in No. 68 in Internet Retailer’s Social Media 300, which ranks retailers by the percentage of site traffic they receive from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. In 2012, those social networks drove 5.27% of QVC’s traffic, according to the Social Media 300 data, also available

In the third quarter of 2013, 36% of the retailer’s global revenue came from e-commerce, and 33% of e-commerce sales were made from mobile devices, Rose says. One other factor helping to bring shoppers back to QVC is the fact that roughly two-thirds of the retailer’s inventory is exclusive and changes frequently, he adds.

Similarly, the group of retailers with the most repeat shoppers on includes two others that entice shoppers to return by offering frequently changing, exclusive deals: flash-sale retailer 1 Sale A Day and auction web site Another two retailers, streaming video providers Netflix and Hulu, are subscription services which by their nature draw consumers back frequently.

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