May 27, 2011, 11:50 AM

The gathering strength of social commerce

A report finds that consumers are ready and willing to shop via Facebook and Twitter.

Lead Photo

The best way to market to the masses was through television. Then cable fragmented the TV audience, and then the Internet lured eyeballs away from TV sets. Now social media stands as one of the few places to reach a wide swath of consumers. That new marketing reality runs through the “2011 Social Commerce Study” released today by Shop.org, the online retail division of the National Retail Federation, consultancy Social Shopping Labs and web measurement firm comScore Inc.

The report finds that 77% of online adults use social networks and 54% of those consumers have followed a retailer on Facebook, Twitter or a retailer’s blog. The average consumer that has followed a retailer online tracks 6.3 of them. According to the report, consumers follow brands to find discounts (58%), learn about products (49%), read customer reviews (34%) and share information with other customers (30%).

Shop.org and comScore based the findings on a survey of 1,700 U.S. consumers conducted via e-mail in April.

While many retailers use social media to build their brands, the report suggests merchants can do more to generate sales directly from social networks. 56% of Facebook users say they have clicked through to a retailer’s web site because of a Facebook post, while 67% of Twitter users say a post has spurred them to click through to a web site. Moreover, 35% of shoppers say they would be likely to make a purchase directly from Facebook and 32% say they would do the same via Twitter.

Mobile also is transforming consumers’ social experiences. “Mobile is a driver of social frequency—as smartphone usage grows, consumers increase the frequency with which they use social media,” says the report. The survey results support that idea. 42%of Twitter users access the site on their mobile phone at least once a day, while the same is true for 34% of Facebook users. 32% of consumers view YouTube clips daily from their smartphones.

“Instead of waiting to get back on their desktop computer to watch videos or interact online, Americans are easily accessing social networks when they have even a few moments of down time, whether they’re scanning Facebook news feeds while picking up their kids from school or tweeting about their shopping experience while browsing the mall,” says Fiona Swerdlow, head of research at Shop.org. “The popularity of mobile devices will only boost the power of social commerce, which presents an incredible opportunity for retailers.”

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