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Holiday Shopping with Social Media, E-Commerce

Just as I began thinking about the daunting task of holiday shopping, I stumbled across a Pinterest blog—the website will now send a notification whenever a buyable Pin you’ve saved drops in price. Then I noticed the date of the blog: December 17, 2015. Huh? Where have I been? So down the e-commerce rabbit hole I went, searching for other ways social media can make my holiday shopping easier—thank goodness for Google. At the same time, I started thinking about how social media has a huge impact on retail shopping, but I was surprised by how quickly and widely things are changing.

I didn’t know that Social is driving a much bigger increase in retail traffic than any other online channel. Social media increased its share of e-commerce referrals nearly 200% in the first quarters of 2014 and 20151:

  • FB continues its lead as the dominant social e-commerce platform, accounting for 50% of total social referrals and 64% of total social revenue.
  • Pinterest, a major social commerce player despite a smaller user base, drives 16% of social revenue.
  • Instagram may not drive significant sales activity, but companies have been leveraging the platform for branding purposes.

That’s some big time growth, but I wasn’t exactly persuaded when I read several industry publications stating that social media is the future of e-commerce. Could I get behind that statement? I get that users already view social media as platforms for discovery and inspiration. And I certainly have noticed that more and more social platforms are rolling out a “buy button” feature to cut down the steps between inspiration and purchase, but in truth I don’t punch those buttons all that often. Nonetheless, there’s the fact that social media accounts for almost 30% of online activity. Add it together and you’ve got the golden mix: the right message, in the right environment, at the right time.

Infographic by Warren Douglas Advertising

But that is the future…so what’s happening right now? Cue the informal focus group. I gathered up a diverse sample of about 30 industry pros (full disclosure, I trapped my co-workers in a staff meeting and questioned them). The results are what I might expect: the majority planned to make some holiday purchases online, but only 14% plan to make all purchases online.

To be honest, I’m not able to imagine yet how those people have become so dependent on this technology. Similar to myself, a third plan to use social media for gift ideas, and half have made a purchase after discovering an item on social media. Regarding discounts, while almost 80% plan to search online for savings, only 7% plan to use social media to look for holiday discounts. My key takeaways from our focus group: people are comfortable shopping online, but they are not quite ready to give up the brick-and-mortar experience; social media is a great place to get ideas, but not thought of as a way to find savings.

Getting back to what’s important—my exhausting holiday shopping mission—I tend to fall right in line with my co-workers. I’ll look to social media for gift ideas (Tip: if you haven’t checked out “Like to Know It” on Instagram, do it now). I’ll even give the Pinterest price drop alert feature a try. Like most of my colleagues, my purchases will be made through a combination of online and in-store.

As for the future… for me, I’ll be dreaming of a day in which social media will magically allow me to purchase the perfect gift for everyone on my list, at the most competitive price, all with the swipe of my finger. For brands, this is one trend that should not be ignored. The transitions of social media from an inspiration/discovery platform to a discovery and one-click purchase platform means considerable convenience to consumers. Brands that are early adopters of this technology will reap the benefits. Need a hard statistic to support that claim? A recent McKinsey customer experience survey found that companies that focus on providing a superior and low-effort experience across their customer journeys realized a 10-15 percent increase in revenue growth.2 Brands that fail to embrace social e-commerce will be making a costly mistake.

1Cooper, Smith. (April 23, 2016). “It’s time for retailers to start paying close attention to social media.” Business Intelligence. Retrieved Nov. 30, 2016 from http://www.businessinsider.com/social-commerce-2015-report-2016-4-23

2Morgan, Blake (Jan. 13, 2015). “Want a Powerful Customer Experience? Make It Easy For The Consumer.” Forbes.com. Retrieved Dec. 13, 2016 from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2015/01/13/want-a-powerful-customer-experience-make-it-easy-for-the-customer/#23cf6b133528

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