Retailers’ Social Media Efforts Seen Driving Product Trials, Impulse Buys

Retailers’ social media activities influence a significant proportion of fans to try new products and make unplanned purchases, according to [download page] a September 2012 report from Ryan Partnership. Some 36% of US consumers surveyed who follow a retailer on social media said that the retailer’s updates had led them to try a new product they had not bought before. Similarly, 32% of those who follow a brand on social media reported having been motivated to try a new product. Of note, social media activity may also have an influence beyond just direct fans and followers: a June report from Ipsos found that 18% of US consumers – including 23% under 35 – have bought a brand because their friends like or follow the brand on a social network.

Meanwhile, other tools appear to influence users into product trials, according to the Ryan Partnership report. These include: shopping applications (32%); reviews and recommendations (29%); pre-shop brand sites (also 29%); daily deal sites and brand emails (tied at 26%); and in-store brand sites (25%).

Social Media Activity Also Leads to Impulse Buys

Retailers’ social media status updates also drive fans to make unplanned purchases, or to spend more than they had planned, as data from “A Tectonic Shift in Shopping Behavior” reveals. 22% of those who follow retailers through social media report having been influenced to make an unplanned purchase, and 15% report having spent more than they planned. Shopping apps were nearly as effective, driving 21% of users to unplanned purchases and 15% to spend more than they had planned.

Retailer texts influenced 20% of shoppers into an unplanned purchase and 14% to spend more. Other influential digital tools included: brands’ social media updates (17% and 10%, respectively); daily deal sites (17% and 8%); and QR codes and bar code readers (14% and 11%). Least influential in driving unplanned purchases and increased spending among the digital tools identified were search engines (6% and 5%) and downloadable coupons and brand sites (both at 7% and 5%).

Social Media Posts Drive Store Choice for Retailers

Further details from the report indicate that among the 19 digital tools identified, retailers’ social media updates also have the strong impact on store choice among users, with 44% saying their choice of retailers had been influenced by this channel. Next-most influential in terms of store choice among users are product reviews and recommendations and pre-shop brand sites (both at 42%), followed by shopping apps (40%), pre-site retailer sites and retailer emails (both 37%). Brands’ social media posts influenced 36% of fans and followers’ store choices, while least influential were downloadable coupons (22%) and in-store retailer sites (24%).

Use of Digital Tools Grows Rapidly

Many of the digital retail tools studied in the report have doubled or tripled in usage in the 18 months since Ryan Partnership’s last survey in this area. In this year’s report, 64% of shoppers reported having used retailer sites when shopping or planning to shop, compared to 28% in 2010. Downloadable coupons are a close second in current usage, and have also shown strong growth in usage (61% this year, up from 28%).

Retailer emails, the 4th most-used digital shopping tool, at 53% this year, has more than doubled in usage from 25%, while reviews and recommendations have tripled in usage, from 12% to 36%. Mobile tools also saw fast growth in usage. Mobile coupons are now used by 18%, up more than 3 times from 5% in 2010; and retailer texts are now used by 16%, also more than triple 2010’s 5%.

As influential as retailers’ social media efforts appear to be, just 23% of the online survey respondents report following a retailer on a social network, though that is roughly double the 12% from 2010.

About The Data: Ryan Partnership surveyed 8,000 primary household (HH) shoppers using an online survey in the spring of 2012. The study includes a representative sample of US primary HH shoppers, and covers all types of retailers and product categories.