Here's How People Prefer to Make Purchases Through Social Media Platforms (infographic)

After more than a year of social distancing and lockdown, more than 100 million Americans received the COVID-19 vaccine, and a return to some kind of “normal” feels imminent. Exactly what that normal will look like still remains to be seen, though. Among the aspects of everyday life that have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, one that may never return to the normal we remember is online shopping.

Even as spending may have decreased in some categories, people are turning to online shopping more than ever before. Brick-and-mortar businesses have turned to the web to stay afloat, and e-commerce has taken over for big and small brands alike. And, for many, the inspiration for when and where to shop online may be coming from social media.

For a closer look at how social media fuels online shopping habits, CouponFollow surveyed 1,400 people for an inside look at which platforms encourage users to shop the most and how much money they’re spending – partially as a result of targeted ads.

Social Spending During COVID-19

For the purposes of the study, CouponFollow described purchasing through social media as clicking through an ad or post and making a purchase at that time. Nearly half of people surveyed (48%) reported making at least one purchase through social media, and even more (67%) said an ad they’d seen on social media inspired a purchase at a later date.

So which social platforms are the most motivating for shopping and spending? A third of social media users indicated making a purchase through Facebook, followed by Instagram (23%), Twitter (4%), and Pinterest (3%). Facebook was also the most likely social platform to encourage users to shop later, with 47% of people saying they later purchased something after seeing an ad for it on the social media platform.

Men were more likely than women to purchase something they saw on Facebook. Younger generations (including those between the ages of 18 and 24) were twice as likely as older users to purchase through platforms like Snapchat and TikTok.

While a majority of users indicated having clicked on an ad before purchasing on an external site (63%), nearly half (48%) said they clicked on a specific brand’s post and then made a purchase on an external site. Just 21% of users said they made a purchase after clicking a link in an influencer’s bio.

In general, brand-curated content (88%) was more likely to lead to a purchase than a social post from a friend (48%) or influencer (37%). And while organic content drove 78% of social media users to make a purchase, 68% said it was a paid ad that inspired them to add to their digital cart.

How Shoppers Feel About Social Media Platforms

Most users have made a purchase based on a post or ad they saw on social media, but a majority don’t trust the platforms themselves to facilitate the buying process. Just 49% of users said they were comfortable with purchasing a product directly on a social media platform. Even fewer (39%) said they were OK with social platforms sharing their purchases in their feeds or storing their payment information (29%).

Forty-three percent of social media users said they didn’t trust any of the social platforms to facilitate payment. Among those willing to shop directly through a social channel, 44% said they trusted Facebook, followed by Instagram (39%), Twitter (21%), and Pinterest (14%).

Forty-four percent of users agreed there are too many ads on social media, and nearly as many (39%) said the ads can be annoying – but there was some positive sentiment for ads on social media. More than a third of users (35%) said they don’t mind an ad showing up in their feeds as long as it’s good, and more than a quarter (28%) of social media users believe ads are a necessary aspect of the social experience.

Social Shopping Is Inevitable

Whether they like social media ads or not, 92% of users have discovered a new product in their feeds, and 78% admit to following brands on their social accounts. Women (80%) were slightly more likely than men (76%) to follow brand handles on their social accounts.

A majority of users follow brands because they like the products (74%), like the company (57%), or simply want to learn about new releases (56%).

Posting useful content (58%) might be the best way brands can attract followers, but there’s always the follow-up options of giving followers discount codes (55%) or posting good photos (52%). Just 45% of users said they were more likely to follow a brand that came off as “authentic.”

The average cost per purchase made through social media was $63, though regular purchasers reported spending $236, on average. The most common social media purchases were video games and accessories (44%), followed by toys and hobby-related items (29%), jewelry and watches (26%), and apparel and accessories (25%).

Having access to a discount code (68%) was the biggest factor in choosing to buy, though a recommendation from a friend or acquaintance (51%) or product reviews (48%) didn’t hurt either.

Embracing Social Media Spending

Most users are annoyed when paid ads show up in their social feeds, but some recognize the necessity of these ads, and a majority of users end up making purchases either way.

More than any other social platform, Facebook was the most likely social site to lead users to shop, though Instagram wasn’t far behind. And whether they’ve made a purchase yet or not, almost all users follow at least one “brand” account. If they already like the products and the brands are providing useful information or discounts for their followers, what’s not to like?

Social media can inspire users to shop or spend, but most people prefer to make their purchases on external sites rather than checking out on the platform itself. At the end of the day, it’s the brands users care about and grow to trust, not necessarily Facebook or Instagram – at least not yet.

Read next: New study reveals employees want to work remotely, at least some of the time, ushering in a new era for businesses (infographic)
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