Social media ‘drives online and in-store purchases equally’


Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are responsible for driving as many in-store purchases as they do from online retailers, according to new research.


The study, from communication technology firm Vision Critical, also indicates that the various social networks affect purchasing behaviour in sharply different ways.

Overall, the findings suggest that marketers need to be increasingly aware of the various consumer listening channels that are influencing buying activities, including the growing impact social media has on motivating consumer purchases.

While Facebook beats Twitter and Pinterest in motivating consumers to make purchases offline and online, the vast majority of individuals who purchase an item after sharing or liking it on Facebook or Twitter were already thinking of buying it.

In contrast, one in three individuals who buy items they have pinned or liked on Pinterest had not thought of making that purchase until they found the item on Pinterest, demonstrating that Pinterest is most likely to inspire spontaneous purchasing behavior. In both cases, the volume of sales driven from social to store may reassure retailers who worry about losing sales to online competitors.

"'Showrooming', whereby shoppers use stores to see merchandise in person before buying online is viewed as a huge threat to retailing," said Alexandra Samuel, vice president of social media at Vision Critical and David Sevitt, vice president of consumer insight at Vision Critical in an article published today in the Harvard Business Review. "While 26 percent of consumers Engage regularly in 'showrooming', 41 percent browse online and then purchase in stores - a practice we call 'reverse showrooming'. Instead of feeling threatened by 'showrooming', retailers should study their customers' paths to purchase and use the insights gained to hone their online marketing efforts," Samuel and Sevitt suggest.

Additional Key Findings:

Pinterest is most helpful, but Facebook still leads

Users of all three platforms see Pinterest as the most helpful in finding interesting items, generating ideas and providing inspiration. Pinterest is also the network where users are more likely to feel overwhelmed. Facebook remains the most popular social network, with three in four users logging on daily.

Purchase categories vary by platform

Different purchase categories prevail on each social network. Users turn to Pinterest for do-it-yourself projects, crafts and food and drinks. On Twitter and Facebook, technology is the product category with the most socially inspired purchases, followed by fashion and beauty. Thirty-four percent of Twitter purchases and 25 percent of Facebook purchases were made after sharing or favoriting a technology item.


The research quizzed 5,900 people over a series of four online surveys to determine how social media influences the consumer’s path to purchase.


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