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The connected consumer: How shopping has gone social

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4th Mar 2015
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Today’s connected consumers are using social networks to find inspiration, tap into peer group recommendations, share their own purchases, follow brands, and boost their own social currency – connecting and sharing what’s trending in return for a reward or personalised brand engagement opportunity.

The arrival of ‘social shopping’ is changing the way people shop and reach a purchasing decision. In a recent survey, undertaken by DigitasLBi, 72% of smartphone users say they use their phone when shopping in-store and that their urge to share is strong - 40% will call friends to get an opinion, while 35% post photos of their prospective purchases for ‘feedback’ and decision reinforcement.

The DigitasLBi Connected Commerce study surveyed consumers in Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain and Sweden, the UK and US, asking how their in-store shopping experience is evolving.

The findings confirm the growing influence of social platforms at every stage of the shopping journey, with 88% of respondents using at least one social network and 30% saying that when they’re in-store they buy more products from the brands they’re following on social network platforms.

It’s all about social presence – and rewards

The study findings confirm the influence of social media on our shopping habits is growing as social sharing becomes part and parcel of the consumer shopping experience - 40% of social media users say they’ll share a purchase on a social media platform, with 33% doing so to get a financial reward.

The marketing value of social media for retailers is clear – it offers a powerful way to engage with more individuals via social platforms, using loyal customers and brand followers to spread the word through retweets and shares. The Connected Commerce survey findings reveal that consumers are responsive to becoming active social influencers in return for a monetary incentive. Done right, brands can boost their exposure on social networks, extend awareness to new audiences and simultaneously ‘give something back’ to those loyal social media followers who become brand ambassadors in the form of rewards.

But not everyone is sharing for recompense in response to an enticement such as vouchers or earned discounts. As the Connected Commerce survey shows, for many consumers social sharing and peer recognition appears to be reward enough in itself - 49% of global social network users who shared their purchases on social networks said they did so for no other reason than ‘just to let their friends know’.

Social influence and recognition works – especially in China

Sharing news of recently purchased items through social channels is becoming more widespread, no matter where in the world shoppers are based – 40% of consumers using social networks confirmed they’ve shared a purchase on a social media platform via a status update or photo upload.

But the social sharing and decision validation element is just one facet of the connected social shopping journey. Because when it comes to making a purchase decision, 54% of global social network users also admit to being influenced by what they’d seen on at least one social network.

This sharing and social recognition phenomenon is impressively dominant in China, where 78% of social media users share their purchases via a social platform. Contrast this with an average of 35% in the UK and Germany and between 40-50% in Singapore, Italy, Spain and the US. The social recognition need after a purchase was also common in

What’s more, 82% of Chinese consumers confirmed that social media plays a key influence in their purchasing decisions. Compare this to 74% in Singapore and an average of 55% in Spain, Italy and the US. Similarly, brand awareness and purchasing loyalty appears to be particularly strong in China, with four-in-five consumers saying they buy more products from the brands they follow on social media.

The social media triggers that translate into sales

When it comes to the ‘why, what and how’ customers make the journey from tweeting, pinning or liking an item to actually making a purchase, the Connected Commerce research shows consumers are primarily influenced by what their family and friends are buying or saying - as well as the promotional branded content they encounter on social networks.

But what works for consumers varies depending on where they’re located. Promotional campaigns, for example, score highly with 83% of Chinese shoppers and are also popular with Belgian and Swedish shoppers (66%) and French shoppers (61%).

It also comes as no surprise that friends’ posts sharing a purchase proved highly influential for 75% of Chinese consumers. It’s a similar story in Spain where 62% of consumers who use social networks say they’d be directly influenced by a friend posting their most recent purchase. Meanwhile, direct advertising on social media was the top incentive to buy for 55% of Dutch and Italian shoppers.

Taking a look at which social networking platforms pack the greatest punch when it comes to influencing consumer shopping decisions, there’s clear regional differentiation and preferences. In China, Weibo dominates the landscape for 65% of shoppers, while Facebook is the top networking site for 61% of shoppers in Singapore – followed closely by 48% in Spain, 47% in Italy and 31% in France. Twitter proved a source of shopping inspiration for 17% of shoppers in Spain, while Pinterest piqued interest for 18% of shoppers in the US saying this is where they have the greatest

Concluding thoughts

Today’s mobile-wielding consumers expect highly connected digital and real world experiences – especially when they make in-store social purchases. Leveraging social media as part of an integrated channel strategy is going to become more, not less, important for building lasting customer engagement.

im Herbert is managing partner of DigitasLBi Commerce.

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