Shopping for likes: Consumer trust in buying on social

Last year, internet users spent an average of two hours and 16 minutes on social media every day, according to Statista. That’s nearly 800 hours per internet user in one single year.

From the moment we wake up, to the moment we fall asleep, there’s often an inseparable urge to engage on smartphones and the social connections they facilitate. It’s only natural that brands have jumped at this golden opportunity to connect with audiences and sell more products through social channels.

But how do shoppers feel about buying products that appear in their social media feeds? On the face of it, this could be seen as a convenient way to discover new items. But factors such as payment, personal data security, product quality and authenticity could impact users’ levels of trust when it comes to converting sales on the social storefront.

How consumers shop on social

According to our latest research, just under a third of people (31%) say they buy products through social media platforms.

The most popular product categories of items bought include: clothing (45%), home accessories (33%), electronic goods (30%) and cosmetics (28%). Considering shopping through social is still a relatively new concept, this does show a fairly significant proportion of social media users confidently purchasing goods through the medium.

It’s all about trust

If this new sales opportunity for brands is to continue to grow, consumer worries must be addressed.

Research revealed 92% of people have concerns around using social media to shop. Their biggest concern is around payment security which causes apprehension in 59% of users. This is closely followed by quality of goods, safety of personal details and the fear of inadvertently buying a fake product.

This is reinforced by the fact that 31% of consumers have inadvertently bought a counterfeit product online, and nearly a quarter of those goods were purchased via social media.

Brands also need to consider the factors that will help them gain the trust of potential customers perusing their social feeds. Peer reviews have a significant impact on those decisions followed by other factors such as seeing that friends on the same social platform have ‘liked’ a brand’s page or follow its profile.

Celebrity endorsement is also seen as an influence by nearly a quarter of users. But with a recent rule change forcing celebrities to be transparent about paid endorsements on social media, convincing users that a celebrity genuinely believes in a product could pose more of a challenge.

Brands need to do more

The biggest influence on social media buying behaviour is brand reputation, as chosen by more than half of respondents. In addition, shoppers across all online channels look to brands, social media platforms and marketplace to protect them from fraud and counterfeiting. Yet 63% of consumers more should be done to protect them.

If brands are to capitalise on the opportunity to sell through social channels, more needs to be done to ensure that platforms don’t become a hotbed for fake products, fraud or cybercrime.

Many social media platforms and online marketplaces already have mechanisms in place to deal with the sale of fake products. However, combatting counterfeiting needs to be a combined effort between vigilant shoppers, brands and online platforms. It is in the best interests of brands and online platforms to ensure they have the right policies and procedures in place to protect users, and in effect safeguard their own reputation and revenue stream.

To learn more about online consumer shopping trends and the role of brands, download the full research report here.