Are people buying on social media?

Social media is big business for retailers. With the average person spending over an hour on social media every day, this offers a unique opportunity to get your products in front of the right people. Low-cost and highly targeted advertising means that you can also save your marketing budget for the right audience. According to one study, an incredible 54% of millennials reported turning to social media for buying advice, but are they actually buying?
It’s one thing for consumers to turn to social for reviews and advice, but are they actually using social to make transactions? According to one study by SUMO Heavy, no, they aren’t. In their survey, they found that 82% of consumers have yet to use social media to make a purchase. The vast majority (80%) cited security concerns as the reason for not making purchases.

Don’t write it off yet

However, this isn’t enough to write off social e-commerce just yet. It’s important to remember that the survey only looked at the shopping habits of 1000 people. It could be that we simply haven’t had enough exposure to social media purchasing opportunities yet.
The top 500 retailers tell a different story about social media shopping, as they reported over $6.5 billion in sales from social media in 2018. This doesn’t sound like an industry that is struggling. Perhaps asking questions about social media buying in the wake of the Facebook privacy scandal isn’t the best time.

Obstacles to selling

One of the biggest barriers to social media purchasing is that there aren’t actually many opportunities to make purchases directly from social media. At the moment, only companies based in the USA can take advantage of Facebook’s social selling platform.
For companies outside the USA, they can still use Facebook for their storefront, but they need to use a third-party website such as Shopify in order to process payments. This means that users are directed to an external site, so the transaction never really takes place on social media.
The same goes for Instagram. While companies have the option to add a “shop now” button to their posts, this will simply link to their website, so the transaction never takes place on social media.

Further friction

Another obstacle that retailers need to get around is the perception of ads in a social media setting. Users understand that they have been targeted to receive an advert, and so they are more likely to view the post as a sales pitch. One way around this would be to partner with influencers in a more authentic way. A great example of this is Reese Witherspoon’s recent paid partnership with Crate an Barrel. It’s authentic, funny and not focussed on the hard sell.

Waiting for the right platform

It’s possible that we don’t yet have the right platform for social selling to really take off. In China, WeChat is generating huge success for retailers in the social selling sphere. Yet we don’t currently have an equivalent of this social media, messaging and secure payments hybrid here in the UK.
Until we have a secure, ubiquitous and trusted platform, retailers will have to rely on tried and tested methods for selling, including email and pay-per-click advertising. It’s important to remember that email is still one of the most popular and trusted methods of communication. And if it ain’t broke, there’s no reason to try and fix it just yet.