Today we are launching our report on social shopping and its impact on consumer behaviour.

Online retail has traditionally been characterised by price-driven sales and purchase-driven consumers. The focus, for retailers, has been on engaging the latter and maximising the former.

And as a social media agency, we are seeing how social connections are changing this behaviour.

Social relationships on the web have transformed how shoppers are behaving online and dramatically changed the online customer journey. It’s an exciting time for retailers and The Social Shopping Explosion report highlights some of the new opportunities that social retail affords.

Research shows new social behavioural trends

With the rapid growth of social networks and the socialising of the internet, the question of where social media and e-commerce meet  – and how  –  is of huge relevance for retailers today. Particularly in the UK, where internet users continue to lead the way in purchasing online.

In August 2010, social media agency immediate future conducted an independent survey of 2,000 UK internet users to understand how consumers are behaving online.

The results are surprising; the implications for retailers, huge.

Changing the path to purchase

The impact of social media on the consideration phase of the purchase funnel
The impact of social media on the consideration phase of the purchase funnel

The social web has opened up the purchase cycle. It’s made it easier for consumers to talk online and easier for consumers to share opinions, information and advice. This means that purchase decisions are based on different criteria: the social shopper is increasingly buying on review, recommendation and the advice of other consumers.

Our research found that 46% of consumers are no longer searching purely on price.

This means that retailers can now engage with consumers before they’ve decided what they’re going to buy.

The empowered social shopper

The social shopper is empowered, vocal and increasingly collaborative. They are savvy, knowledgeable, demanding and the rules of engagement are different.

Broadcasting no longer works: brands and customers are talking; and, in the online space, it’s what other consumers say that really counts.

Our research found that 37% of respondents had reviewed or talked about a product online after purchase, fast catching up with those who had discussed it face to face (38.4%). Word of mouth is nothing new. What’s different is where it’s taking place.

Social spaces have created wider networks and, as such, have created a much bigger opportunity for retailers. Our research has found that consumers trust other consumers, even if they are people that they don’t know. This means that every consumer can now drive traffic and purchases via social.

The Social Shopping landscape is in growth

Recent reports from the IMRG/BPS Internet Access and Online Shopping in Britain report shows that online shopping continues to increase. It also finds that the number of internet users visiting social networking and blogging sites for the second quarter in 2010 has increased fourfold when compared to the same period in 2008.

Understanding this changing landscape is key to retailers; and understanding the social shopper is at the heart of their future success.

Exploring the types of shopping behaviour online and investigating how social touchpoints are affecting the customer journey, The Social Shopping Explosion provides up to the minute insights for brands operating in this new social marketplace.

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