Social strategists at large companies for the first time say that improving the customer experience is their top social business objective, according to the latest annual State of Social Business report [download page] from Altimeter, a Prophet Company. Of the 523 respondents surveyed from organizations with more than 500 employees, 82% indicated that improvement in their relationship with customers and customers’ experience with the brand was an important objective.
Last year’s leading goal – brand health – was relegated to the 4th-most important objective (79%), trailing customer experience, innovation (81%), and operational efficiency (80%). (It’s worth noting that all of these objectives are tightly bunched, so of relatively equal importance.)
The focus on customer-centricity is reflected in other survey responses. For example, the top 3 external social strategy objectives for both North American and European respondents centered on customer relationships, as opposed to emerging platforms such as messaging and social apps. Specifically, the leading objectives this year are:
- – Customer Service: Providing direct customer support through social channels;
- – Relationship Building: Developing ongoing dialog and engagement with customers to deepen relationships; and
- – Innovation: Collaborating with customers on new products/services.
Also of note: the percentage of respondents naming innovation a top external objective doubled from last year, which in turn had almost doubled from the year before. Social media has long been touted as a platform for collaborating with customers on innovation, though it appears that this is only becoming a strong focus now.
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Another shift occurring relates to the social team moving “from innovator to integrator,” as social platforms extend into areas such as advertising, commerce and service. As such, roughly 8 in 10 strategists agree that the social team is becoming more operational and a platform for other innovation teams to test new e-commerce approaches. Fully 3 in 4 North American respondents say that social commerce has now shifted to e-commerce and digital teams – in particular, the use of chatbots for service, payments in messaging apps, as well as emerging forms of commerce.
Separately, despite continuing reports that social is hampered by measurement difficulties, the Altimeter survey finds a good deal of confidence in social’s contribution to the bottom line, as more than three-quarters of the strategists surveyed agree that they have a strong business case for social media investment. Further, social advertising (which is now one of Millennials’ top purchase influencers) is also delivering, with 80% of North American respondents and 63% of those surveyed in Europe agreeing that their social ads are cost effective and meeting objectives.
About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 523 executives, social strategists, digital strategists and marketers at companies with more than 500 employees.