Social networks are now part of the awareness, consideration and purchase stages of the customer journey. Visiting Amazon to read reviews is part of the customer journey for 52 percent of U.S. consumers. However, Deloitte’s report into U.S. consumer holiday spending trends finds that one in four consumers will look to these various networks for advice on what gifts to purchase. And when asked to rate which voices they trust the most, those of brands themselves came third (56 percent) behind friends (75 percent) and family (74 percent).

“Brands’ organic reach is in decline because consumers are becoming immune to traditional forms of advertising,” says White. “Instead we’re increasingly influenced by what our peer groups think. This is particularly true of Generations Y and Z who will consider between five and 12 reviews and posts before deciding to buy a product.”

More engagement, more information

Data from social media analytics firm Shareablee, shows shoppers who engage with a retailer via social channels spend on average 19 percent more than the average consumer and that over the course of the past 12 months, U.S. retailers have seen a 46 percent increase in social-influenced clicks.

The 2018 Consumer Expectations Report from Avionos found that 55 percent of consumers are going further than clicking and consideration and have purchased a product via a social network.

And the reason why shoppers are starting to feel comfortable using Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat as retail channels is because of the wealth of information on offer.

GWI data shows one of the major drivers is the way that a service like Instagram can overlap the different customer journey stages in one digital space. One in three Americans who have bought direct via social media said that these platforms offer a better view of the product in question; while 20 percent point to how they can see products their friends have engaged with and a further 20 percent point to the fact that products are aligned with trends and influencers.

A channel for conversation and conversion

“If managed correctly, a brand’s social media channels should create a space devoted to the free exchange of customer ideas, comments and opinions,” White points out. “That same space also provides a platform for a brand to be proactive in this conversation. The right engagement increases its authenticity, transparency and most importantly, how much customers trust the brand.”

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