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7 Key Findings On The Use of Social Media And E-Commerce: New Study

A lot of online retailers have been rushing into using Social Media as the next big marketing thing and yes it is showing some promise.

A recent study by Compete which evaluated online shopping trends, unearthed some interesting findings about the use of Social Media and online shopping, especially about Facebook and Twitter.

According to the Compete Online Shopper Intelligence study, consumers have been slow to embrace social media as a shopping resource. 

Social networking sites were ranked as the least used online shopping resource.

Sixty percent of all consumers surveyed said that they do not use social networking sites while shopping online.

When questioned further, an even larger percentage said that they never visit retailer pages on Facebook or follow retailers on Twitter. I think the rather telling finding about the above graphic is the continuing importance of email and search engines for consumers in promoting the online retailer as shown by

  • Retailer emails as never being used at only 24%  (so they are used regularly 76% of the time)
  • Search engines as never being used at only 8% (meaning that 92% of the time the consumer is using search for starting their shopping experience)

In the study, shoppers overwhelmingly said that they visit retailer Facebook pages and Twitter feeds in order to learn about promotions and sales.  Many retailers now offer Facebook Fans exclusive discounts and coupon codes for online and in store purchases.

A few have even added a storefront to allow consumers to purchase products using those discounts without ever leaving Facebook.  The bottom line is if retailers are looking for an ROI on social media, give shoppers the same thing.

The 7 key findings from the study:

  1. 61 percent of respondents indicated that they never visit a retailers Facebook page
  2. 86 percent of online retailers had a Facebook page
  3. 23 percent said they visit retailer pages less than once a month
  4. Among consumers who are fans of retailers on Facebook, 68 percent are fans of 3 or fewer retailers
  5. 70 percent of shoppers said they do not follow any retailers on Twitter
  6. Among consumers who follow retailers on Twitter, almost 2/3 of them follow 3 or fewer retailers
  7. Among those that do use these outlets, 2 out 3 responded that they use these tools to keep up to date on retailer sales and promotions

So how can retailers attract more consumers to their social media pages? The Compete study showed that you need to be offering  special deals to make the consumer visit their Facebook page.

Major takeaway from the study: “Give them a highly compelling reason to visit—provide shoppers with discount information”.

Dell and Naked Pizza have used this tactic to drive sales with their use of Twitter.

What you also need to keep in mind is the continuing importance of email and SEO.. disregard them at your marketing peril.

So are you using this strategy with your Twitter and Facebook channel?

Jeffbullas's Blog


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  • Glen D Gilmore

    Jeff, I must say I am surprised by the findings you report in this post. I note that the study cited seems to be mentioning figures from 2008, though written in Jan 2010.

    Would be interested to know more about the scope and timing of study cited as the findings seem to be at odds with the success of companies like Ford, Dell, American Airlines, Zappos and many more.

  • Thanks for the post, hadn’t seen that report by Compete yet.

    Don’t you think the reason that consumers don’t use social sites for e-commerce is because it basically doesn’t exist yet? Heck I’m deep in the space and I don’t think about going to Nike’s Facebook page to buy sneakers, mostly because they probably don’t have that functionality yet.

    Maybe there’s some learnings to be gained from this report but I feel like its comparable to a report called, “Consumers not using the iPad to read newspapers yet.”

    • Yup. I agree completely and commented on this post farther down. Hope you check it out. I sense there’s an important discussion getting started here. Hope we can connect further and talk. Ellie

  • To say the least, I think social consumers are using social network as their “core navigation” tool. Retailers on the other had have become more engaged in the facebook and twitter in combination with online shopping sites like Onewayshopping.com to promote their bargains and deals.

  • Interesting data. People are limited on time and there is an ever growing number of choices we have every day. Spending time looking for retailers on Facebook would be a low priority for most people. There has to be something in it for us if we’re going to spend any real time on a retailers facebook page. If I were a retailer I would use facebook to provide offers or info but the ultimate goal would be to direct back to my website.

    That’s my humble opinion.

  • There’s a social media disconnect among the marketing channels. Brands are making facebook pages proforma. Retailers promote themselves by cooping with brands to put out coupons, discounts, etc. There are blogs directed at connecting consumers with deals at retail that get down to the local level where people live. Hello? Does it look like some dots need to be connected to make all of this work better for all parties? What is it that the end buyer wants? The weekly best deal. There are all kinds of possibilities in brands drilling down through the distribution channel to local targeting that could help breach the gap betweenoverarching brand awareness and what consumers really want.

  • Great information. Yes how many companies want a Facebook FAN page? And what do we do with them exactly? So why would I FAN Heinz Katsup? Or Astra Zenica’s social wellness page? Seriously.

    So 61% Never visit a retailer’s FAN page. And 21% say less than once a month. That ain’t social media, that’s simply an ad platform that doesn’t work very well. In my informal polls of people who have clicked on a Facebook ad. (1 in 10) and how many people have actually bought something after clicking on a Facebook ad (1 in 100) And mind you, the 1 was me.

    So what are those 6% weekly and 4% daily folks doing on the Facebook page? Are they “ambassadors” for the brand? Do they work in social media and thus are exploring what Best Buy is doing, for example?

    The only innovative thing happening on Facebook, IMFHO is gaming. And no, I don’t want to be invited to your Mob Wars game, but I might invite you to my Knighthood game. And then Facebook Connect is an awesome tool.

    But where do we bridge the gaming, the facebooking with the transaction of commerce?

    Thanks for the info.

    John McElhenney @jmacofearth | uber.la

  • alice

    Womens fashion and beauty brands – if you love them you only need to use social to find out what’s going on. All the promotions, new lines, reviews, links to videos, are all on their Twitter feed and FB pages. If you just subscribed to their Twitter feed, you should not miss much, or if they are smart – you should never miss anything. Purse Blog is another crazy phenomenon… a bit nuts but you can see what social does for people with passions like shopping.

  • interesting, but i thought they’re going to promote the product, instead sell it

  • Thanks Jeff, I using your advice to my website and the impact is unbelieveble, please check it out Laundry Detergent Supplier

  • What do you think,Jeff? In the future, Social Media Networking will “Bubble” ?

  • This is some very interesting data and it speaks quite loudly to the overall point of social media. I reference Jeff Hillmire’s earlier comment about not going to Nike’s Fan Page to buy sneakers. That’s a very true point and is probably shared by the greater majority. But the purpose of social media is not necessarily to SELL, but to build relationships with customers and build brand awareness. Your average buyer probably feels comfortable purchasing a household-name product, like a Nike sneaker, without consulting current information supplied by a fan page or Twitter account because their decision is backed by years of proof and success.

    For a lesser-known company, utilizing social media correctly can be a great way to communicate, interact, share, and establish rapport with customers. A lot of people are info-gatherers by nature, taking the time to obtain great quantities of information before purchasing ANYTHING. A Facebook Page or Twitter Feed allows you to share up-to-date information relevant to their search.

    A strong social media presence is a great way to appeal to consumers who may be researching why your product or service is right for them.

    • Rita Johnson

      I couldn’t agree more. Social Media should be used by marketers as a branding tool and to brand loyalty.

      Great Post.


      • I absolutely agree. Social media is often seen as a sales generating tool and a majority of the firms is to focused on the short-term results and financial ROI instead of the long-term objectives such as building relationship, involving customers in your new product development process, improve service etc. Fan pages should add additional value to the consumer experience that they don’t find on the website or in stores. In return, organizations should reward their fans for being a fan of that brand through extra discounts etc.


  • There’s a difference between shopping / transacting and finding out about something.

    The finding out bit – if you’re a retailer and not using these channels to promote happenings in your store or with your brand, you’re missing the boat.

    I have all my favourite retailers lined up and know EVERYTHING that is going on with them at all times. Sales, new lines, offers, special codes, I can get answers to questions.

    I also follow all my favourite restaurants and find I want to eat at them more as they push out their menus and ask for feedback.

    Of course people cannot transact from social sites – the facility is not there. Also, I think these figures are a bit oldish.

  • I am wondering about this study, because most people I talk to say they always check out companies on Facebook.

    It is almost a “given” today that companies have to be transparent and on Facebook you see what the comments are about lots of products and services. Even more important is that you can read how the company reacts to questions, ideas.

    Social media helps build a brand, because it makes it come “alive”.

    You also have to give people a reason to come to your social media pages. A great offer, a contest, some interesting new promotion…that will keep customers and prospects engaged.

    On our website: http://www.loisgellermarketinggroup I give a free download of my own personal story of how I’ve kept my business going “through good times and bad”. Then I invite people to tweet with me and exchange ideas, and keep in touch on Facebook.

    Testing some new strategies this week on my blog, because we’ve added a twitter feed.

    So, I believe that social media helps Zappos, Dell and my small business too!

  • Since I have been using social media my business grow 12% in the lest seven months.
    People tells they go to the store don’t find what they need and have to order online
    after the invest time and gas to go the the store

  • Perhaps it would be too pessimistic to say that social networks hold little value for the online shopper. The knowledge, information, and advice trapped in one’s social graph is huge, and what may be ineffective is the means of tapping into this vast intellectual resource. Very few people begin their product research on social networks, but that merely invalidates that specific means.

    With the Open Graph API and mobile internet, the social network has become truly portable and infinitely more versatile. For instance, retailers can now integrate social into the buying process to facilitate purchase planning.

    At the risk of selling, we have a solution that aims to exploit social media to drive ecommerce beyond the usual “engagement” and “conversations,” which seem to characterize social media marketing.

  • Federico

    Add all the social media functionality to your website instead of creating magic content for social media sites. Facebook and Twitter are medium term bubbles not your brand or consumers.

  • The fact that consumers, generally, don’t visit retailers’ FB pages is similar to when consumers didn’t visit retailers’ web pages in 1996. In due time, consumers will embrace FB as a way to shop. The FB shopping experience is akin to eCommerce 3.0 because of the streamlined delivery of content to FB users. That will attract a growing segment.

  • BuyGiftsItems

    usual bulk shopping was done by distributor, buy & sell or a
    dropshippers, and yes this is still possible and good source of income.

  • BuyGiftsItems

    usual bulk shopping was done by distributor, buy & sell or a
    dropshippers, and yes this is still possible and good source of income.

  • “You need to be offering  special deals to make the consumer visit their Facebook page.” -Really? Then you are marketing Facebook, not your product. Unless FB has a utility in the marketing space on its own, it’s not going to be a favourite of the businesses.