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Between Q2 and Q4 2012, ibi research probed the attitudes of online merchants in Germany to social networks, and their use of social sites and group-buying initiatives. The conclusion? Even many retailers who use social media are unsure about its value.
Two-thirds of respondent firms said they were currently active on Facebook. Over half (52%) had a presence on XING, while YouTube, Twitter and Google+ were used by 36%, 35% and 30% of online retailers, respectively.
More than three-quarters of companies said they managed their social media efforts in-house. But documentation was a weak point. Only 18% said they had established metrics to evaluate what they did in social media, and just 14% had committed their social media strategy to writing.
Facebook led the list of social sites retailers planned to use in the future, too. Google+—benefiting from strong momentum in 2012—took second place in this ranking.
Researchers also asked digital retailers about their experience of group buying. Two-thirds said they knew about the concept, and 13% had already carried out at least one group-buying initiative with their customers. The results of these experiments were mixed, however—and many retailers confessed to having cold feet. Only 2% of businesses familiar with the concept of group buying said they planned to carry out such activities.
This is an intriguing snapshot, considering that Germany is home to Europe's largest population of digital buyers—so that group buying is entirely viable, at least in theory. eMarketer estimates that nearly 50 million residents ages 14 and older will buy via online and mobile platforms this year. Total ecommerce sales are healthy, too, and are expected to reach $53 billion in 2013.
Nonetheless, it's quite possible that group buying will never be as popular in Germany as in other markets. It certainly isn't going to catch on if retailers themselves do not offer the option.
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