4 in 10 Adults Say They’ve Bought Something They Saw on Social Media

January 9, 2017

This article is included in these additional categories:

Brand Loyalty & Purchase Habits | Creative & Formats | Digital | Privacy & Security | Social Media | Word of Mouth

Social networks are widely used in the US, as a recent MarketingCharts study indicates that more than 2 in 3 US adults use social media on a weekly basis. And there’s reason to believe that social media will be increasingly used as a vehicle for product discovery, given that 85% of Gen Z reports using social to learn about new products. But to what extent does social media influence purchases? A recent survey [download page] from SUMO Heavy Industries offers some insights.

The survey of 1,003 adults indicates that relatively few (23%) use social media for specific information such as learning about product and services. Likewise, fewer than 1 in 5 have ever purchased something directly through a social media site, such as by using a social buy button, although that 18% figure is a sizable increase from about 10% in a prior survey fielded in early 2016.

The absence of clear commerce intent from consumers when using social media doesn’t mean that social doesn’t have influence, however. Indeed, more than 4 in 10 respondents (42%) reported having ever purchased something because they saw it on social media. Additionally, roughly 45% said that social media has at least somewhat of an influence on their purchase decisions. Considering that close to 9 in 10 respondents reported using social media, this suggests that about half of social networking users’ decisions are influenced by the platforms.

As such, while consumers may not be using social media with a commerce mindset, exposure to products and services on these platforms appears to have an affect on purchase behavior.

What type of exposure works best? Not too surprisingly, posts by friends and family are the most likely to influence respondents’ purchase decisions (a testament to the power of word-of-mouth), as are product reviews, news and videos – each cited by a slight majority. While fewer said sponsored posts (16%) and banner/display ads (12%) are likely to influence their purchases, it’s worth noting that MarketingCharts research has found social advertising rising significantly as a purchase influencer.

As for specific platforms that most influence purchase decisions, Facebook is the leading network, hardly a surprising result given its extensive reach. Interestingly, Pinterest was the next-most cited platform, in keeping with its reputation as a more commerce-oriented platform.

Finally, the biggest concerns held by consumers regarding making purchases through social media sites are security (76%), privacy (65%) and legitimacy of the purchase (64%). These are longstanding concerns that may not be resolved anytime soon since social platforms continue to suffer from a low degree of consumer trust and still do not engender much confidence from consumers.

The full SUMO Heavy Industries report can be downloaded here.

About the Data: The survey was fielded in September 2016 among 1,003 US adults (18+), 52% of whom are women.

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