Social media has transformed the way we do business, yet many British retailers still harbour reservations about the benefits of social media to their business, according to a new survey by delivered wholesaler, Palmer and Harvey.

When retailers were questioned about their social media habits at this year’s Pro-retail show, P&H found that while 63 per cent use social media to promote their business, they have significant concerns about the benefits that employing a digital strategy can deliver.

One in three admit they don’t consider themselves to be social media savvy, and while the use of social media among retailers has been growing, more than one third (37 per cent) still haven’t adopted social media to grow and market their business.

The survey also revealed Facebook as the most popular social media platform, with 94 per cent of retailers who do use social media saying they run a business account. Twitter is used by over half of retailers (55 per cent) followed by LinkedIn (22 per cent) and Instagram (17 per cent).

Key benefits of using social media identified by retailers included creating positive exposure for their store, the ability to quickly respond to customer complaints and queries and posting information directly applicable to their customer base. Retailers also said that it was much cheaper than traditional advertising.

The most common reason for retailers not jumping on the social media bandwagon is the belief that they lack the necessary resources and cannot spare staff time. A further one in five said they do not use social media because of the potential danger posed to their business from damaging and negative comments.

However, according to P&H, all of those surveyed said they would be open to changing their minds about the benefits of social media in the future. Just five per cent said their customers weren’t on social media, highlighting the necessity of tapping into this trend.

Palmer and Harvey has created a comprehensive social media guide for its customers as part of its ongoing commitment to providing added value to independent retailers. The how-to guide has been designed to help retailers set up and make the most of their social media accounts. 

Rory Brick, head of channel development at Palmer and Harvey, said: “In a world where social media is a component of everyday life, it is crucial that independent retailers remain at the forefront of new developments in the area.

"We have made our social media guide available online to encourage retailers to learn about the many benefits social media can deliver to their business, with the end result being improved engagement with customers and ultimately, increased basket spend.”

Other statistics from the Palmer and Harvey survey about retailers and social media use:

• Just 11 per cent of retailers have been running their social media accounts for over five years, with 30 per cent saying they’ve had social media for less than a year.

• The majority of retailers surveyed spend on average two to five hours a week using social media for promoting their business. 13 per cent spend more than ten hours a week on the task.

• Posting store information, offers and deals to customers is the most common way retailers use social media to market their business online (91 per cent). Over half (55 per cent) share image images of their store and products on their accounts and a quarter utilise social media to actively monitor their competition. Responding to customer queries and promoting their local communities were also key functions of social media use for retailers.