GLOBAL: Consumers are now placing less importance on social media as a part of the customer journey than they did two years, according to new research.

Consulting firm Capgemini surveyed more than 18,000 digital shoppers across 18 countries for its second Digital Shopper Relevancy Report and found that while the role of social media had declined on a number of metrics, that of the smartphone had grown.

Specifically, the importance of social media in retail awareness had declined from 3.09 to 3.02 since 2012 (on a five point scale where five was extremely important); scores for choice fell from 2.99 to 2.93 and post-sales fell from 2.99 to 2.87.

The equivalent figures for smartphones showed a rise in importance for awareness from 2.88 to 3.07, for choice from 2.82 to 3.01 and for post-sales from 2.91 to 3.00. Smartphones also showed improvements in two other metrics: transactions, up from 2.81 to 2.94, and delivery, up from 2.93 to 3.09.

"Despite the surge in Facebook's ad revenues and marketing innovations like Twitter's new 'Buy' button, there is definitely a question mark over where and how 'social' fits into the shopper journey," said Kees Jacobs, Global Digital Proposition Lead, Capgemini Digital Customer Experience.

While social media was most relevant in the 'awareness' and 'choice' phases of shopping journeys, he suggested that retailers "still have work to do at every stage of the purchasing journey in order to make social media play a useful, valuable role in buying a product or service" .

Overall, social media was seen to be less important to the shopper journey than conventional retail store experiences, web, smartphone, email or the use of technologies in-store.

When carrying out retail transactions, 72% of shoppers saw the store as important or very important compared to 67% for the internet. Only 14% said physical stores had become less important for them, but at the same time 51% expected to spend more online than in-store in the future.

The report further revealed that high-growth markets had a stronger preference for digital technologies than mature markets and had a greater appetite for personalised offers and recommendations.

The latter were rated 'extremely important' by a significant proportion of consumers in India (46%), Mexico (40%) and Brazil (38%). This was in stark contrast to the equivalent statistics for the UK (13%), France (15%) and Germany (24%).

Data sourced from Business Wire; additional content by Warc staff