Social media is reaching more than half of global online shoppers, according to a recent study released on February 23 by international professional services researcher, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The ‘Achieving Total Retail: Consumer expectations driving the next retail business model’ report found 59 per cent of shoppers who utilise online retailing also connect with their favourite brands on social media platforms. More importantly, the same number said they had found a brand on social media and then subsequently decided to purchase from them.

This highlights the important two-way social media engagement between retailers in Australia and consumers around the globe, which is trend being picked up by a growing number of organisations and brands.

“Brands know they have to draw consumers to their social media presence – the number of our survey participants who visited social media sites because of personalised promotions via email or text message increased from 9 per cent in 2012 to 21 per cent in this year’s survey,” PwC UK Retail and Digital Partner Matthew Tod explained in the report.

Additionally, 55 per cent of the international online shoppers admitted to sharing their good and bad retail experiences on social media sites. This is an important trend which can significantly impact a retail business’s reputation and branding.

An increasing number of retailers also seem to be transforming social media from a platform solely for connecting with consumers into a retail storefront. Almost half (48 per cent) of the PwC respondents said they had purchased products via social media, up from just over one in ten in 2012.

“The consumers want it all and they want it now, and retailers now have to figure out how to provide that to them in a profitable way. We’re seeing an increasing requirement for retailers to transform their businesses, not just simply adding more channels,” Mr Tod said about this interesting retail trend.

This desire to access easier online retailing opportunities has also driven an increase in the use of mobile devices. The PwC report found 41 per cent of online shoppers had purchased products using a tablet in 2013, compared with 28 per cent during the previous year. Additionally, 43 per cent had purchased products through a smartphone device, compared with 30 per cent in 2012.