Social Commerce

Why Buy Buttons Are A Hard Sell

Buy Buttons Spin Wheels

Not even a dummy could mess up buy buttons, they said. Just slap some on your social networks that already boast thousands, if not millions, of users, they said. It can’t help but increase sales, they said.

They were wrong.

In an interview with CIO, Gartner Research Director Jennifer Polk outlined some of the ways buy buttons have failed to translate into the money-making APIs retailers were promised. Polk noted that it can seem like a paradox — social networks have incredible traffic and significant engagement with content on the sites — but she acknowledged that, for the consumer, shopping on a retail site and browsing a social network just aren’t the same thing.

“It just doesn’t align with customer behavior and the way that people want to buy — not in a way that’s scalable,” Polk said. “It’s not how people are buying at this point.”

Polk urged merchants with money to spend and not throw their funds blindly at buy buttons. Instead, it’d be a much safer bet to shell out for “social analytics and social advertising, to drive clickthroughs and traffic.”

Even if buy buttons were an effective way to generate sales through social media channels, customers don’t treat each site the same in terms of which they designate for pure social play and which they view with an eye to buy. A joint Cowen-eMarketer study found that just 3 percent of Snapchat users, 9 percent of Twitter users and 12 percent of Facebook and Instagram users report using these respective channels for product research.

While Pinterest pulled in a respectable 55 percent, it seems more the exception than the rule in the wider view of buy buttons and social commerce.


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