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Mixed Signals on Social Commerce

One in five internet users have at least tried it

January 5, 2017 | Retail & Ecommerce | Social Media

A new survey indicates that roughly one in five internet users have at least tried purchasing a product on a social site. Will that number grow further?

US Internet Users Who Have Purchased Products Directly via Social Media, Sep 2016 (% of respondents)

Sumo Heavy, a digital commerce strategy, design and development consulting firm, found that 18.2% of US internet users have purchased products directly via social. The results are surprising, given that a separate survey by Sumo just six months earlier found that only 9.9% of respondents said they had tried social commerce. (And of those, about one-quarter said they didn’t plan to try it again.)

“Social commerce has gone through so many iterations, with experiments launched and killed, only to have the basic concepts revived again,” said eMarketer analyst Krista Garcia. “I don't see a time soon when a majority of internet users will have shopped through buy buttons, but it will probably tip over one-quarter by the end of 2017 as retailers make the process more seamless.”

(eMarketer PRO subscribers can read Garcia's December report on social commerce here.)

Primary Attitude Toward Shopping via Social Media Sites* According to US Internet Users, April 2016 (% of respondents)

Retailers definitely have some more work to do. Despite investment in the space, they aren’t seeing much success with social commerce. In fact, US retailers surveyed by RIS News and Gartner attributed just 2% of their total revenues to social commerce. A majority of the revenues, 69%, came from physical stores.

Studies like this only look at sales directly attributable to social commerce. But social commerce plays a role in influencing ecommerce, even if the transaction takes place elsewhere, whether online or off.

“When someone sees a buy button, it clicks in their mind that this is something they can purchase,” said Jess Jacobs, director of marketing at Wayfair. “It helps consumers understand that it's not just a piece of inspiration—it's something you can take action on.”

—Rimma Kats

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