Mobile and social customer experience strategies are becoming more important than ever for brands, with retail and restaurant consumers using these channels to make decisions – even while in-store, according to a new survey from the Empathica Inc., Consumer Insights Panel survey.

The research also showed that mobile technology has become commonplace during shopping and dining experiences. At least half of consumers with smartphones have looked for reviews about a retailer during a visit – as well as 10 percent of consumers who don’t even own a smartphone.

Price comparison is the most common use for mobile technology in retail locations, according to the survey, which confirms anecdotal evidence from several published articles discussing Black Friday shopping trends over the last couple of years.

The  increase in price comparisons come from the convergence of improvements in technology, including the increasing presence of Internet-capable phones and the difficult economy that is marking consumers more price conscious, said Emphatica chief customer officer Gary Edwards.

According to the Emphatica survey, 55 percent of smartphone owners have used their devices to check prices while shopping. Other popular mobile actions include scanning a QR code (34 percent) and writing a review (9 percent).

“Today’s consumers routinely perform a variety of in-store activities on smartphones and mobile devices,” Edwards said. “Whether it’s comparing prices or scanning a QR code for a discount, brands that ignore the use of mobile technology in customer and guest experiences will miss key opportunities to connect with a large pool of potential brand advocates.”

Some companies are poorly organized to handle social media feedback, Edwards added. “Companies need to take a thoughtful approach to dealing with social media input.”

The brand advocates provide more far more positive influence than any negative influence from detractors, so social media is essential in building customer loyalty, according to Edwards.

Nearly three-quarters of consumers use Facebook to make retail or restaurant decisions, while half of consumers have tried a new brand due to a social media recommendation. For retailers and restaurants that post all user-generated content online, negative reviews don’t necessarily dissuade consumers from trying a brand, especially if it has a generally positive online presence. Only 26 percent of consumers indicated that they would definitely avoid shopping at a store if they first read a negative online review.

“Negative user reviews is not necessarily a brand destroyer,” Edwards said.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • More than a third of survey respondents (37 percent) have visited a brand’s Web page using a mobile phone.
  • Although 55 percent of consumers are willing to “like” brands on Facebook, women (64 percent) tend to use the “like” button more than men (47 percent).
  • Approximately 89 percent of people who have shared a positive experience with a brand via social media in the last three months also “liked” a brand on Facebook; only 36 percent of those who have not shared a positive experience with a brand via social media in the last three months “liked” a brand on Facebook.
  • Eighty-two percent of consumers are willing to engage retail and restaurant brands in online conversations if they believe it will improve future experiences, but only 62 percent believe that brands monitor online conversations and just 30 percent think that brands act on customer feedback.

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