Social Commerce

Consumers To Buy Buttons: We're Just Not That Into You

Consumers love social media and of course consumers love ice cream. It seems like it should be the perfect peanut butter meets jelly experience, but recent events and data suggest that the pairing does not go together with quite "wing and a smile" efficiency.

Twitter, of course, stirred up big news last week when it announced that it is formally pulling the plug on its buy buttons and moving on to other (hopefully more lucrative) efforts. And though Twitter is the first and most public bailout, recent studies from Forrester and GlobalWebIndex indicate that they likely won't be the last.

The data show that on the whole, consumers aren't really using buy buttons all that often in any of the places they've shown up on social media, including Pinterest and Instagram.

So what's the deal?

First off, it seems to be a design problem — consumers don't use what they can't see and, according to reports, the buy buttons on social media are actually pretty easy to overlook.  They are either a small part of a busy background (Pinterest and Instagram) or a small part of an ever scrolling feed (Twitter), and in either case they aren't naturally drawing a consumer's eye unless the consumer is already looking for the button.

Which they aren't, because social media users are not yet habituated to shopping while they are there, which means they don't know or care to seek out and experiment with the experience.

And since consumers are not yet trained to visit social media sites with the intent of making direct purchases, even if they do notice a buy button, they may not realize what it is for or be willing to experiment with it.

Moreover, the data show the shopping experience is too limited. Consumers can buy a single one off item from a social site that is advertised before them, however, if they want to browse or price shop, no dice. Time to go to a shopping marketplace and away from the social platform one was hanging out on.

Which leads to the biggest hurdle, the reason consumers are already going to social sites: to gain inspiration. Consumers can in a few clicks get a good idea for trends, social circle habits and a series of theoretically unbiased third-party reviews. This makes social media great for product discovery, but it tends to send consumers scurrying away to do better more in-depth product research of the type it is hard if not impossible to do on a social media site that is only doing commerce as a sideline.

So is the buy button dead? Not quite. But if it is ever going to be a real retail force, it seems it has a long way to go before it is a standard part of the shopping experience.

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