Social media, e-commerce, consumer behavior

The time for shopping directly from social media has come — at least from the perspective of consumers.

SUMO Heavy Industries, a digital commerce strategy, design and development consulting firm, released the results of its 2016 Social Commerce survey, which confirmed that consumers are ready to start shopping directly from social media platforms. This isn’t surprising as online influencers continue to turn profits for top brands and shoppers respond to the accessible nature of these bloggers rather than traditional marketing methods.

The survey polled 1,003 U.S. consumers over the age of 18 during September 2016. The questioned lot slightly skewed female as the demographics were 52 percent women and 48 percent men. The survey aimed to comprehend social media’s power over consumer behavior and spending in order to explore the effectiveness as a channel for brands and retailers to secure more revenue.

The survey found that 72 percent of the respondents use social media daily and 47 percent refer to various platforms multiple times per day. The remaining 11 percent of those polled do not use social media. Of the 89 percent who use social media — 88 percent refer to Facebook, 33 percent use Instagram and Pinterest separately and 28 percent use Twitter.

Social media reigns as a tool to connect with friends and family — 85 percent of respondents who use social media refer to social media primarily to keep in touch with loved ones. Fifty-five percent go to social media to pass the time and 49 percent use social media as a main source of news, the survey said.

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Eighty-eight percent of the polled consumers use Facebook as their primary social media platform.  Courtesy Photo

Results got interesting when the participants were asked about using social as a medium to discover new products and find inspiration for upcoming purchases. Herein resides huge opportunities for brands and retailers to reach consumers in an organic venue to inform spending behavior. “Look no further than the fact that 37 percent consider themselves impulsive shoppers,” said the report.

Not only are consumers more open to the possibility of buying products directly off social media, they’re more likely to pull the trigger given that checkout processes are efficient and user-friendly. “More importantly, 50 percent say that social media influences their purchasing decisions,” the report said. According to the results, a staggering 42 percent shared that they are influenced by what they see on Facebook — Pinterest influences 19 percent. Somewhat surprisingly, Instagram trailed with 11 percent of influence — Twitter and Snapchat rounded out the platforms with nine percent and two percent of social influence, respectively.

Conversion rates are still pretty low — the survey found that only about 20 percent buy products directly from social media, but 47 percent admitted to making a purchase from what they saw on social media.

The Yelp effect has taken hold — news and reviews swayed 54 percent of decisions. Friends and family squeaked ahead with inspiring 56 percent of purchases. With that, brands should think less about in-your-face advertising and more about community-building and benefits.

And while social media is spot on as a source of overwhelming influence, there’s still a lag in acceptance of the platforms as an e-commerce channel. It’s not necessarily that shoppers aren’t acquainted with the system — “only one in three say it’s because they’re simply unfamiliar with the process,” said the report.

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Security and unsecured transactions were the main deterrent to buying straight from social media.  Shutterstock / Maksim Kabakou

According to the results, the biggest hurdle is the sense of online safety — 77 percent named security and unsecured transactions as the main deterrent from directly purchasing off social media. Privacy concerns also keep shoppers from buying via social mediums – 66 percent are worried about privacy. Retailers might benefit from verifying authenticity: “Sixty-five percent don’t spend via social because they’re unsure if they’re making a valid purchase,” the report said.

Connecting with shoppers in their chosen social benefits will provide an additional touch point as they go about daily routines. Subtle engagement will suffice at this point, only nine percent tried shopping with chat-bots, e-messengers that facilitate the e-commerce experience. This will likely change, though. The report said, “Fifty-four percent simply would not try it at this point, while 37 percent are willing to give is a shot.”

Brands and retailers can mine new groups of consumers — and enhance experiences for existing patrons by upping their presence via social media, especially with influencer placement. Be sure to showcase security methods to seal the deal.