New research has revealed that as Australians adopt rapidly adopt social media, it is playing a role in influencing their purchasing decisions.

The annual RightNow Australia customer experience report shows that the number of Australians actively using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube has increased from 53 per cent to 63 per cent in the last 12 months.

“It’s been amazing to watch not only the rapid adoption of social media in Australia, but also the consumer’s desire to engage more directly with organisations on the social web,” Brett Waters, vice president Asia Pacific – South, RightNow, said.

“While good in-person service will always be important, the experiences that customers receive on the web or when conversing on social media are just as critical.  Even more imperative are the interactions customers have with other customers.”

Additionally, one in four consumers who use social media have made a purchase because of a social web discussion and the number of consumers that want organisations to contact them via social media with special offers and discounts rose to nearly 61 percent, which is up from 57 per cent in 2010.
Other findings by the study reveal that 39 per cent of consumers believe companies listen to customer feedback on social networking sites while 34 per cent are happy to be contacted directly by a company after making a negative post. But only 30 per cent of consumers are happy for organisations to use social media conversations to sell products or services. 

The survey also uncovered that 40 per cent of Australians are using mobile devices to access the internet. And just over half (55 per cent) of those mobile users are using their devices to search for information while another 32 per cent are using their devices to making purchases.

“With the use of mobile devices on the rise, the study suggests that companies need to begin planning to mobilise their customer support efforts or risk being left behind. Australian organisations today are facing a difficult challenge: maintain quality service across traditional communication channels and at the same time implement strategies that embrace the strengths and flexibility of emerging channels such as mobile devices and social media,” Waters said.

The 2011 RightNow customer experience survey was conducted in April 2011 by StollzNow Research and involved more than 700 Australian consumers aged between 18 and 65 years.