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In the last few years retailers have continued their quest to engage with consumers through their social media channels, helping increase brand awareness, promote products and create conversations around their brands and products.
Noting how popular social media had become with consumers, social networks themselves recently began adding marketplace and buying features to their apps and websites - offering a huge opportunity for brands, shoppers and social networks.
Or is it?
These days Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest all include their own shopping features, including Facebook Marketplace and Shoppable Posts. And while the option to shop on social media is there, research suggests that many users aren’t actually choosing to make purchases through social media channels. In fact, it appears that social media, for many, is still simply a place of inspiration rather than a place to buy.
But why aren’t shoppers buying on social media?
There are social channels out there that offer a seamless shopping experience, Facebook Marketplace for example, which allows users to make a purchase through Facebook without being directed to another website or app.
Unfortunately, however, there are other social media channels out there that don’t offer this experience, such as Instagram. While they do offer Shoppable Posts, a helpful tool for encouraging social media purchases and enabling more users to discover new products, it’s still not seamless.
Clicking ‘Shop Now’ on Instagram takes you to the brand's website to view products and make a purchase, which can cause some to hesitate with their purchase, or even stop them buying altogether.
Naturally, social media users are put off by ads, many want to see organic content from their friends, family and brands that they choose to follow - not promoted content by outside parties, which is why influencers are often used on social to promote products.
Influencer marketing is more organic, it’s likely that audiences will be following them because they enjoy their content. Through working alongside social influencers rather than ads or shopping options, brands appear more reliable, trustworthy and real, instils trust and promoting engagement and sales.
Influencers allow for more targeted promotion, allowing retailers the opportunity to promote their products to their exact audience, without worrying about spending money on reaching those who are unlikely to buy through paid, shoppable features.
Users use social media to find out what their friends are up to, to keep updated with recent events and to communicate with others, this has been the case for as long as social media has existed and is unlikely to change any time soon. The priority for many has never been to make purchases through social media and is something that will require a huge change in behaviour before it becomes a priority for audiences.
Simply put, buying on social media doesn’t align with consumer behaviour, it’s not a way that people are used to buying and is not a way that people actually really want to buy.
If consumers want to buy a product they know they can head to a brands website and make a purchase easily, on a platform that is dedicated to shopping. Social media channels, however, aren’t dedicated to this, leaving users feeling uneasy about making a purchase, another factor that is turning users away from social commerce.
So far it seems that social media isn’t yet a viable sales channel, with very few consumers really utilising buy buttons and shoppable posts and with many shoppers looking to learn more about a product from a dedicated site before they make a purchase, something that can’t be 100% explored on social media.
With shopping online becoming more and more simple with each passing day, social media has a lot to live up to and currently has failed to keep up with the market, however, with social network sales beginning to rise - perhaps next year we’ll truly see a larger impact.