Customers Still Aren’t “Buying” the Social Media Buy Button

Sep 20, 2016

social ecommerce cart

Over the past decade, social media has transformed the way people connect with each other and the way we make buying decisions. They spend time reading product reviews, sharing what they like on social channels, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and talking with their friends. Product trends may emerge on Facebook or Pinterest long before the first product review is written.

We know online shoppers vote with "likes" and "shares,' so  why aren't they "buying" the social media buy button?

Bye-Bye Buy Button

In spite of all of the hype, social commerce hasn't gained the traction retailers had hoped it would. Social media pages have massive audiences—oftentimes much larger than a retailers house file of email names—so it seemed like a logical (and profitable) idea to turn social engagement into sales with the social buy button.

Since 2014, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter added click-to-buy features, however the effort hasn't paid off. According to data from Custora, sales from social media sources accounted for only 1.9% of online sales during the 2014 holiday seasons and declined to 1.8% in 2015. Based on that data, it's not a surprise that Twitter abandoned the "buy" button earlier this year.

Buy buttons make sense conceptually, in theory they make shopping even easier for the consumer by eliminating an extra step. The challenge has been to implement them in a way that makes sense to customers. Let's take a look at two of the major challenges.

  • Who is the payment going to?  — If someone buys a pair of shoes via a Facebook buy button, does Facebook process the payment or does the merchant? It's not clear to the consumer and causes uncertainty, most people are more comfortable buying directly from the merchant.
  • Is the product available? — Managing online inventory is already challenging, social media commerce adds a whole new level of complexity. Social media sites must make sure that retailers are trustworthy, they have enough inventory to make the experience compelling and that the product inventory is accurate and up to date.
Converting social "likes" into buys certainly has it's technical challenges, but it seems that the biggest factor is that the notion of social commerce doesn't align with consumer behavior at this point in time.

Can Social Drive Sales?

There is some very interesting technology emerging that can help retailers tap into social behavior on their website and use the data to optimize on-site conversions. Retailers like Shoe Carnival have implemented social engagement platforms like Site Vibes to integrate the "social" browsing behavior into online commerce. They use the platform to identify top trending products based on a combination of social shares, product reviews and website browse and buy behavior.

site vibes 1

The retailer can then expose the top trending products on the "trending wall" to shoppers in real time. Kent Zimmerman, VP of E-commerce at Shoe Carnival, shared that they're seeing an exponentially higher conversion rate and lift in AOV for shoppers who interact with the Site Vibes interface.

I think we'll see more of this kind of technology emerge and become more sophisticated. It'll be interesting to see what happens to the idea of social commerce as online retailers find ways to integrate social behavior within their websites.