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Fewer than 1 in 5 adults (18%) have ever purchased something directly on a social media site using features such as a social buy button, according to a new survey from SUMO Heavy [download page]. Social media instead has much more of an impact as a vehicle of awareness and as an influencer of purchases.

In this latest survey almost half (48%) of respondents reported having ever purchased a product or service because they first discovered it through social media, with that being up from 42% in a similar survey conducted in 2016. Social media as a vehicle of awareness seems particularly relevant to youth, most of whom say they regularly discover products through social media.

Meanwhile, close to 6 in 10 respondents (58%) to the SUMO Heavy survey said that a social media platform had influenced their purchasing decisions, up from 45% in 2016.

Currently the main impediments to making purchases through social media don’t relate to familiarity, but instead to security (71%), privacy (67%) and legitimacy (64%) concerns.

Chatbots For Service, Not Shopping

As with social media, chatbots can be used for some shopping-related purposes, but there’s a reluctance to embrace them for direct purchases.

Close to 1 in 3 respondents have either already tried shopping through chatbots on messaging apps (11%) or would be open to trying it (20%). However, among those 11% that have tried shopping through chatbots, opinions are split, with about the same proportion saying they wouldn’t do it again as would.

Youth may again be at the forefront of conversational commerce, as one piece of research has found much more receptiveness to shopping through chatbots on the part of Millennials.

Nonetheless, people seem much more inclined to use chatbots for customer service. Among the roughly half of respondents who would use chatbots while they shop, the majority (63%) would prefer to use them for customer service, such as for asking questions and getting additional information. Fewer would use them instead primarily for product discovery or comparison, and the fewest overall for purchase transactions.

Separate research has likewise found a willingness to interact with chatbots for customer service, with the biggest perceived benefits relating to speedy on-demand communication. However, chatbots aren’t yet trusted to resolve complex issues, for which people still want the human touch.

About the Data: The SUMO Heavy data is based on a survey of 1,046 US adults.

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