Have we underestimated the importance of social shopping?

Charles Nicholls
November 4, 2022

As more buying journeys start at the edge, remote from a brand’s ecommerce site, an ever-increasing proportion of journeys cross channels, making them very hard to track. This leads to underreporting of remote traffic, especially social, and over-reporting of the importance of direct traffic. 

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We just completed a new report on Generation Z’s shopping habits, and their shopping plans over the holiday period. There’s one really startling finding: only 6% of Gen Z (shoppers aged 16-24) do not use social media for shopping. While Gen Z are not yet massive spenders, the fact that 93% are using social media routinely as part of their shopping process is really telling. (If you’ve done the maths and are wondering about the missing 1% they don’t know whether they use social or not). 

examples of people shopping on social media

Of course, in this type of research you can’t exactly know what people are doing with social and how it influences their purchasing, but it is clear that consumers value social media for product discovery and recommendations. These are top of funnel activities critical for attracting new customers to every brand. 

In our State of Social Commerce report 2022, in which we track attitudes and behaviours of shoppers towards social, it is clear that three-quarters of consumers prefer to checkout on the brand site. Navigating from social to the brand site is a hazardous business. Not every post is clickable. Many products in brand posts aren’t tagged, so finding the specific product can be challenging. But even if the product is tagged or there’s a direct link to the brand site, the journey across channels is often hazardous and the experience breaks frequently.  In fact, when clicking through from social, 81% of customers complain about poor experiences, ranging from error pages, being taken to the wrong product or the product being promoted is out of stock. 

statistics of trust on social shopping

We also know that only about 10% of those customers that are going to buy, actually buy in the first session. Shoppers frequently want to look at products a couple of times before purchasing. Given the difficulty of finding a given social post again, it is highly unlikely that shoppers will follow the same path from social back to the brand site. In fact, it’s much more likely that they will go back to the site directly and navigate to the product they are considering. 

Attribution models are designed of course to handle these challenges, and a Click + 30 model (where the first click gets the attribution even if the visitor returns through a different channel to buy within a 30-day period) nails this problem. But amazingly there are still some marketers using last click attribution and this will undoubtedly under report on shopping journeys from the edge. 

From our new study we also learned that:

  •  80% of Gen Z shoppers plan to use social media in their search for holiday gifts this year.
  • 41% plan to do all or most of their shopping using social. 
woman shopping on social media

These searches for holiday gifts might be early research looking for ideas or recommendations from influencers. They may never click a link, but head directly to the brand site. 

A brand with a reasonable social presence will likely be seeing something between 3% and 10% of their site traffic coming from social. 

Even heavily social brands such as Kylie Cosmetics only see 12.5% on average. So, is this a true and accurate reflection of the impact of social on your brand, and its sales? Frankly given the data about how and where customers are shopping, and that they spend two and half hours per day on social suggests it has a bigger impact, especially for young people than the data suggests. 

quote that social commerce is today's wild west of ecommerce

There are three relatively simple fixes that will improve the quality of your analytics in this area:

  1. Tag products in posts

If you haven’t already uploaded your product catalog into the various social platforms, then this is step one. Step two is to make sure that every post that shows or mentions one of your products tags the product correctly. This is the top of your new sales funnel, and a little effort here goes a long way. 

  1. Make sure every post has a link

Not all social posts can have links, but it’s a simple fix where you can make sure that every post is clickable. It’s remarkably common to see posts from brands of all sizes that are not clickable when they could be. This is another quick and easy fix that will smooth the path to purchase. If you think you already have this completely covered, check your twitter posts and you’ll probably find posts without links. Finally check the links work – it sounds basic I know……but you may be surprised!

  1. Check you are using a Click+30 attribution model

While not so simple to change, because attribution is one of those tricky subjects where everyone is unlikely to be happy, this is important if you want to really understand what’s driving sales. The most important argument here is that most sales take a sequence of visits over time, often using different touchpoints. The first touch, however, is always the most important. It’s the moment when the idea of buying was first seeded. 

There’s an age-old saying that half the money spent in marketing is wasted, the problem is knowing which half. While you may not be able to measure the impact of social on sales very accurately, it looks increasingly likely that this is the half that is working. 

Check out some of our other insights on social commerce.

Shopify & social commerce: 5 best practice insights and optimizations

Holiday Season Social Commerce: How to avoid the customer experience black hole

Shopify: How to start selling with Facebook and Instagram

Holiday Season Social Commerce: How to avoid the customer experience black hole

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