Product discovery on social media continues to grow with more than 80% of consumers discovering a product they were interested on social media, up from 58% in 2017, according to a study by social commerce platform Curalate.
Product discovery on Instagram has seen the highest growth, with 48% of consumers discovering products there, up from 18% two years ago. Other visual platforms showed significant growth in product discovery as well as including Facebook (from 52% in 2017 to 70% in 2019) and Pinterest (22% to 28%).
“If you look at the overall referral traffic from social to ecommerce, it’s pretty low,” said Apu Gupta, CEO and Co-Founder of Curalate. “Typical ecommerce will get 5% to 10% referral traffic from social.”
Gupta said one of the challenges is that the shopper’s journey on Instagram does not begin with a search but with a scroll. Often social is playing a major role in driving consideration introducing people to things.
The problem is, the journey from the top of the funnel to the bottom is not linear, so “you have a big attribution problem,” said Gupta.
For example, Pinterest knows it has an impact on product consideration, but how do brands measure purchase behavior based on that?
“Ultimately marketers shouldn’t be evaluating the effectiveness of social on its immediate revenue impact,” said Gupta. “It has a much broader impact when you think of consideration.”
The survey found social images also lead to product discovery on a brand’s own website. Fifty percent of consumers said seeing photos from an Instagram feed on a brand’s website helps them discover a new product during that session, 52% said they end up spending more time on the brand’s website when they encounter social images.
“Ecommerce has been optimized around intent,” Gupta said. “If you are a consumer who knows what you’re looking for, ecommerce is great for consideration.”
What has been forgotten is that shopping itself has never been just about intent. Physical stores for example, rely on introducing you to products. There is intent and inspiration and shoppers move between those two modalities, Gupta said.
“Ecommerce has failed to deliver on the inspiration equation,” said Gupta. “The real risk isn’t Amazon. If people can’t shop for ideas, they can’t be inspired and they buy less from you.”
Thus, social media has taken up the inspiration mantle “Consumers are telling [brands] they value discovery,” said Gupta. “With brands how can we create a discovery like experience.”
According to the study, micro-influencers (those with fewer yet often more dedicated followers than brands or celebrities) deliver an outsized impact in terms of product discovery. Twenty-six percent of consumers said a micro-influencer helped them discover a product in the past three months, compared to 20% for celebrities and 22% for friends.
On average, consumers follow 10 micro-influencers, 13 celebrities and 15 brands. Authenticity matters in images as well, as 48% of consumers said that makes them trust the brand more.
“Social has allowed a lot of people with a perspective to have a platform to talk with other people,” said Gupta. “It has allowed connectivity to occur. Before, brands told people what to do. Somebody with a high degree of authenticity can out-compete something with a high degree of dollars.”
The study found that 47% of consumers who discover a product on social media buy it online at a later date. Nineteen percent buy it immediately from the social tag and 13% buy it later in a physical store. Eighty percent of shoppers said they are most likely to research a product upon discovering it.
Consumers often research a product by clicking on native shop tags, like Instagram Shopping and Pinterest Shop the Look, instead of making a purchase. Fifty-two percent said they click to learn the product name and see a description, 52% click to learn price, 38% click to see more products from a brand and 28% click to buy.
The study also found beauty shoppers tend to follow more micro-influencers than other shoppers. Thirty-seven percent of them follow more than 10 micro-influencers, compared to 29% of shoppers overall. Beauty shoppers are also more inclined to buy immediately when clicking on shopping tags. Thirty-eight percent say they click a shoppable image on Instagram with intent to buy as compared with 24% overall.
Micro-influencers tend to drive more product discovery in the beauty segment. Thirty-five percent of shoppers said a micro-influencer helped them discover a beauty-related product in the last three months.
Shoppers for clothing (57%) and shoes (60%) ranked “authenticity in photos” as the most popular attribute for building trust for newly discovered brands. Fifty-five percent of clothing shoppers and 57% of shoe shoppers said social content increases the time they spend shopping.
Curalate surveyed more than 1,000 consumers about how they discover new products, what prompts them to make a purchase and their timeline for doing so.