Social media is reinventing itself. While we still use it for catching up on news, connecting with friends and sharing holiday photos, it’s also becoming a popular way for consumers to discover and buy products. According to a recent study we carried out, 76% of US consumers have bought an item they saw in a brand’s social post, and in the UK it’s 67%.

People don’t necessarily visit social channels with the intention of shopping, but by interacting with posts that catch their eye, they are motivated to explore further – driven by inspiration rather than purpose. Of the 1,000 consumers we interviewed as part of our research, those between the ages of 18 and 34 are most receptive to shoppable posts, with half this group agreeing they are interested in learning more about items they spot on social media sites. Overall, 39% of consumers are influenced by user generated content, saying that seeing real life images of people who had previously bought a product make them more likely to buy it.

 

Know how people shop

Social commerce is successful because it appeals to people’s emotions. Some shoppers act on impulse, with 4% making a purchase immediately online after seeing a product according to our survey results, while just under half (46%) spend time thinking about the item then buy later. 17% go on to buy in store.

Shopping via social channels is also convenient. Our study found that almost a quarter (24%) of consumers will buy an item if they are taken directly to the product page on the retailer’s website, rather than having to search for it.

 

Inspire your customers to purchase

This progressive merge of social and commerce reached another milestone recently, with the announcement that Instagram has extended shoppable functions to its Stories feature. More than 500 million people are active on Instagram every day, and brands have enabled commerce by tagging direct links to products on posts for some time. Instagram Stories, which allow individuals and businesses to tell a story through a collection of pictures and video posts, have seen rapid growth and consumption since launching in 2016 – users choose to watch Stories to stay up to date about brands they’re interested in, get an insider view of items they like and find out about shiny new things that are relevant to them. So, great news for brands that are creating some of the most viewed and engaging content on the platform.

 

Be social

Enabling consumers to purchase products they see at the point of discovery presents an exciting opportunity for brands. However, simply tagging posts is not enough if marketers want to drive meaningful traffic and revenue. To truly make social sell, brands need to grow the value of their content, both brand-created and user generated, and re-use it elsewhere such as in emails, blogs and on their own website.

While social channels should be applauded for developing new ways to strengthen relationships with consumers, brands will benefit from integrating additional strategies to enhance their social commerce performance. By tailoring and refining shopping features on social channels for specific needs, brands can fully prosper from social commerce while providing a pleasurable and meaningful experience for consumers.

 

This article was originally created for and published on Digital Doughnut.