Social Media Is Changing How Consumers in India Interact With Companies

Screenshot from the Online Shopping Trends in India, 2013 - A Google India report.

Screenshot from the Online Shopping Trends in India, 2013 – A Google India report.

No matter if your phone or hard drive crashed, if bank staff were rude to you or the clothing you ordered didn't arrive, Indian consumers have found a new forum to air their grievances – social media.

With the growing number of smartphone and Internet users in India, customers are increasingly turning to Facebook, Twitter or online consumer forums to vent their anger against brands. Around 25% of India’s online consumers are aware of brands’ social media presence and are posting their grievances online before lodging their complaint in consumer court.

The philosophy behind this trend is simple. Satisfied customers become brand evangelists by spreading positive word about their products and services, whereas unhappy customers can cause harm to the brand by criticizing it and spreading a bad word in their social circle. According to a study by AC Nielsen and AbsolutData, nearly 40 million Indians use online reviews to inform others about what they have purchased and how their experience has been with the brand. Furthermore, more than 67% Indians, who are online, read reviews before taking their purchase decisions.

This makes it absolutely imperative for brands to monitor what’s been said about them online and how to tackle consumer complaints.

It’s not just social media channels. User-generated consumer review and feedback sites such as, and online forums too have gained a lot of prominence. Customers are increasingly sharing their experiences about everything from gadgets to apparels, plants to delivery efficiency, on online forums. About 10 million Indians are believed to contribute to online forums which is a staggering number considering the country’s online population.

And brands don’t have a choice either. They ought to monitor their social media channels as well as online forums and participate in these discussions to make sure that the consumers are satisfied with their service. Moreover, the window available for the brands to reply to the customer’s dissatisfaction is quite limited. About 42% of consumers complaining on social media expect a response from the company within an hour.

According to a social media study by Social Wavelength, Twitter is the most preferred social media channel for people to share their shopping experiences. This has made e-commerce stores hyper-active on Twitter; more than 40% of tweets by these brands are replies to the customers issues.

Consider HomeShop18, which is extremely active when it comes to replying to its customers with more than 50% of their tweets being replies. In this study, Infibeam and Indiaplaza fared worst which had more than 80% of their tweets as apologetic replies.

Unfulfilled orders is the most common complaint received by e-commerce stores, followed by product complaints, exchange policy and website technical errors.

Although this comes across as beneficial for consumers to make their grievances heard and have it solved soon, it is posing significant threat to brands and their reputation. There are many cases where customers are unreasonable and go on a complaint spree on multiple platforms. There have been instances where brands pose as customers and post positive reviews about its products as there are no steps in place to confirm whether someone has actually used a service before posting a review.

Recently, Flipkart got involved in a similar controversy during the launch of Moto E. It had been just 12 hours since the phone was launched and all of a sudden there were more than 800 ratings and 200 comments regarding the phone in just 12 hours.  Most of the reviews were highly positive and the matter was fishy considering that the people commenting there didn't even had their devices with them.

Social customer service, especially in case of B2C (Business to Consumer) companies is becoming extremely significant these days and has become the first point of contact. Customers can get in touch with a brand regarding their problem via phone or email, but the fact that social media and forums bring an added pressure and onus on the brands to resolve a grievance as soon as possible is key to this social CRM (Customer Relationship Management). As India is bringing thousands of people online on a daily basis, this part of social media will become extremely crucial for companies.

1 comment

  • The only issue with sites like Yelp and similar is they become power hungry. I do SEO work and Social Media marketing, having consumer comments about companies is a good idea, the issue is where to best consolodate all the comments for best impact.

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