What’s Wrong With Social Commerce

A Harris poll has found that barely 5 percent of adult shoppers (they didn’t examine younger than 18-year-old behavior) have made a purchase on social networks. This is the context of Twitter preparing a major push for social shopping via its Buy Button.

One of the age-old problems with social shopping has been that social networks were never designed to directly deliver sales—that was just the job of E-Commerce sites—but they were perfectly suited to have a vast influence on sales. The difficulty with sales influence, at least for analysts, is that’s almost impossible to reliably measure, to quantify.

Interestingly enough, the influencing factors there are so powerful, it might be a bad idea to tie it directly to a sale. Consider a Pinterest or Facebook post about this magnificent dress a shopper just purchased for only $22 and she loves it. She posts a picture of her wearing it and mentions that she got it at Macy’s. For friends and friends of friends, that could be a very persuasive endorsement.

But what if she then throws out a direct link to that dress, especially one with a lot of coding at the end? Would some of those friends of friends raise their eyebrows and start to wonder if this person might be shilling for a percent of the sale? Like the agencies that used to have people go to bars and talk out the client’s brand of alcohol?

In other words, social media may already be driving huge amounts of in-store and E-Commerce revenue today. What if this more direct sales approach actually costs retailers and manufacturers money?

The fact that it’s hard to measure, though, has little impact on conversion. The fact is that consumers don’t want to do it. They don’t go to social networks to shop. They go to spy on their friends and look at pictures.

The Harris survey included a chart labeled “factors that would increase the likelihood of making a purchase via social network.” What’s interesting is that there was no answer—for any demographic—where the answer was more than 48 percent. In short, for every question posed, most said “Nope. That won’t make me more likely to buy through a social network.”

When asked if knowing that payment card data was secure would make them more likely to social buy, yes was offered from 48 percent of those 18-34, 47 percent of those 35-44, 37 percent of those 45-54, 34 percent of those 55-64 and 36 percent of those 65 and older.

Similar percents were offered if shoppers were convinced that purchases “would not be shared.” It wasn’t clear among who this sharing involved, whether it meant the retailer, manufacturers, other businesses or other social participants.

The lowest result came from the question about payment data being saved on the site. That’s apparently not an especially attractive idea.