LONDON: Brand owners hoping to drive up online sales in Europe must strike the right balance between social media, email marketing and customer service, a new study has argued.

To gain an insight into current web retail habits, eGain, the software provider, and Vision Critical, the survey firm, polled 3,000 adults in 11 nations, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

A 22% share of the panel revealed that recommendations on social media services had previously influenced an acquisition made through the internet, rising to 29% for 18-34 year olds.

If seeking further information at the final stage of the purchase process, 41% of contributors said a company responding quickly to an email exerted the most positive impact on their decision, reaching 38% for useful "frequently answered questions" sections on brand websites.

Among the factors causing people to abandon transactions are "unclear or confusing" technical details on 26%, complex registration and payment systems on 21% and negative social media reviews on 20%.

In discussing what shapes loyalty to online retailers, 55% of interviewees agreed their opinion was best summed up by the statement "I value service, but I don't expect to pay a premium for it."

Another 42% of consumers afforded this status to the idea that "customer service is as important as price", according to the analysis.

Using a five point scale to rate their satisfaction with the service provided by different companies on the web, retailers scored an average of 3.6 points out of five.

Travel and leisure firms generated 3.4 points, the same total as product manufacturers. The finance and insurance sector logged 3.1 points, as did telecoms, while utilities providers came in just below three points

When assessing which offers from firms they had already done business with, 61% of consumers would consider an email regarding a complementary product to one they had previously bought.

An additional 59% may also respond favourably to emailed offers rewarding loyalty over a longer period. By contrast, only 6% proved open to these types of communications via social media.

Upon making complaints, 48% of participants concurred that emailing a company was the most likely first option, with a phone call on 32%, and using social media or online chat tools on 17%.

Data sourced from eGain; additional content by Warc staff