Social commerce is one of those subjects that periodically grabs marketers’ interest, but has yet to take off in a major way.
Even the definition is becoming increasingly fluid. Where once it referred to direct sales, particularly "buy buttons" for users to click through and purchase an item immediately, it has expanded to encompass influence, days or weeks of consideration, and multiple purchase channels—even in-store.
A millennial-focused Cowen and Company survey, conducted in December 2017, shed light on the current state of social commerce. All social platforms have influence on purchase behavior, and—no surprise—more so among younger users.
Social platforms are also discovery vehicles.
Some 38% of millennials discovered a brand on Facebook that they ended up buying, closely followed by Instagram (37%). Both figures were higher than the overall average of 30% for Facebook and 29% for Instagram.
Meanwhile, Pinterest had higher rates of organic posts leading to purchase, Facebook caught users’ attention with paid ads, and Instagram had similar levels of shoppers triggered by organic posts and ads.
Perhaps the most interesting discovery, though, was where social media users actually bought products they saw on these platforms. Amazon was No. 1 (42%) for brands seen on Facebook. In fact, Amazon took the top spot for all social sites/apps included in the survey except Instagram.