Imagine scrolling through your Facebook homepage and coming across a photo posted by one of your favorite clothing brands. You click through to the site to see more pictures of the dress the model is wearing – imagining what you would look like in it. You then scroll down and start seeing sizing and other customer reviews. You may decide not to buy it or make a note to come back to it later, but as you go back on your Facebook feed, more customer reviews or friends who also “like” that brand start to pop up. This explains the phenomenon of social shopping.
Though it is not yet possible to buy products directly through a brand’s social media page, consumers are inspired through their posts to buy their products. Aimia, an analytics company, reported that 56% of consumers who follow brands on social media sites do so to view their products, in lieu of catalogues.In a world where people want instant feedback, brands must stay on top of their social media pages to promote their latest products and promotions.
Facebook is the lead social commerce platform credited with 50% of total social referrals and 64% total social revenue. The advantage brands have with Facebook is its older demographic, making it easier for older generations to engage in online shopping whereas millenials are more savvy to it. Facebook has been a pioneer in the social shopping trend with their “buy” buttons and marketplace feature, where users can “discover, buy and sell items with people in your community.”
Jan-Pieter Lips, president of international coalitions at Aimia said, “Social commerce offers a real opportunity for retailers to shorten the path to purchase for customers.” Consumers find reviews very valuable, making them consider if an item is worth their purchase. A study done by Pricewaterhouse Coopers found that nearly half (45%) of digital buyers worldwide said that reading reviews, comments and feedback on social media influenced their digital shopping behavior. Aside from customer reviews on the brand’s website, simply clicking on a hashtag on Instagram with a products name can bring the user to a page with thousands of posts reviewing an item. Marketing teams must use these features to their advantage to stimulate sales.
Though serving as a place for inspiration, brands aren’t generating as much direct sales through social media as you would think. However, as “buy” buttons begin to fill Pinterest and Instagram feeds, they will allow immediate buying opportunities.As seen through Facebook, the algorithm they have created causes users to be constantly exposed to their products pressured to buy. As such features develop, it will be interesting to see the reaction of users as the platforms move away from social networking and more toward social commerce.