Consumers Trust E-Commerce Websites More Than Social Networks
I just read two articles, both of which suggest that consumers trust e-commerce websites more than social networks.
The first reported on a new survey conducted by the consultancy The E-Tailing Group and personalization services vendor MyBuys Inc of 1,000 consumers, which found that 55% are "mostly willing" to provide shopping preferences to trusted retailers in exchange for an enhanced shopping experience, while 52% stated they are "much more concerned" or "somewhat more concerned" about providing the same information on social networks.
The second article, which reported on research by social marketing firm Get Satisfaction and analyst Incyte Group, said that only 13% of people log onto social networks like Facebook to interact with brands, and that "when customers want information to make purchase decisions, they are more than four times as likely to go to the company’s website (89%) as they are to use a social network (21%)."
This seems to spell good news for e-commerce merchants, but it doesn't completely relieve them (you) from the responsibility of creating a social media presence. What it does do is shift the priority for creating such a presence away from social networks to their own e-commerce sites - something that can be achieved by incorporating more social features such as ratings and reviews, online communities, and social sharing capabilities.
When it comes to social networks, rather than use these outlets to broadcast and advertise, it's best to create engaging content that consumers - fans and followers - will value and appreciate.
That's not as simple as it may sound, but it's also why I've spent the past several years writing about the topic of social media here at Practical Ecommerce, in hopes that I can provide concrete steps merchants can take to accomplish that goal.
It's also why merchants need to tune their websites to appeal to social consumers. Provide the tools needed to allow customers to share content with their friends and some will.
Even though social media has not prevailed as the "be-all, end-all" of 21st century marketing, one cannot deny its potential to drive conversations about brands and products that may lead to more traffic and additional sales. Put in the right perspective, it deserves a place in a merchant's online marketing toolkit right alongside SEO, PPC, and email.
I echo the sentiment contained in the second of the two articles: "The lesson here for small businesses is to make your company’s website your first digital investment priority and don’t think of social media pages as a substitute. And don’t ignore your website as you develop your social media presence; it’s too valuable to let it languish."
The eWAY Team says:
This is very interesting; do you think the balance will shift as social networks become more effective eCommerce tools? (Our partnership with BigCommerce, for example, enables merchants to sell products directly through Facebook.)
The eWAY Team
Michael Unan says:
I think you really summed it up when you said "it's best to create engaging content that consumers - fans and followers - will value and appreciate".
This is /should be a rather simple concept that unfortunately most organizations and marketers fail to comprehend or bother to address.
For me, that's why I find it so easy to spot the organizations that are doing social media and search well -you can usually spot them a mile away!
Paul Chaney says:
eWay, I think it has to do with intent. By that I mean "shopping first, social second." I don't go to Facebook to shop, but if I happen to see something a friend shares that appears in my newsfeed, I might be interested. (That's called "discovery," which I believe social nets can be useful in promoting.)
On the other hand, I do go to e-commerce sites with the intent to shop -- at least to browse. With that said, I believe that, as social network users become less bothered by seeing commerce-related content appearing in newsfeeds - especially when that content is shared by friends - social networks could play a larger role. In fact, two recent articles from mainstream news outlets - NY Times and USA Today - attest to their efficacy as a burgeoning shopping portal.
However, I still believe the priority for merchants is to add a social layer to their websites. And, they should focus on creating engaging content that speaks to the needs/wants of their fans and followers.
Michael - I agree completely. Businesses have a lot to learn about how to use social media well, which is why guys like me spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure it out, then write posts like this to help them.
Michael Durwin says:
If you're talking about trusting ecommerce sites with your credit card information versus trusting social networks with the same, you're correct. But that's like saying consumers trust doctors more than teachers because they'll let doctors see their medical records. Hopefully too many ecommerce retailers won't read into this that they are the number 1 influencer of purchases, because they're trusted since that is simply not true.
According to BusinessNewsDaily almost two-thirds of all online shoppers have read product-related comments from friends on Facebook. And three-quarters of those shoppers have clicked through to visit the product page on the retailer’s site. More than half that clicked through are making a purchase.
So, I think it's important when talking about consumer trust to make sure we differentiate between consumers' trust of their financial data and consumers' trust as it relates to product purchases.
Paul Chaney says:
Very good point Michael and well-taken. You're correct to suggest that "trust" has to do with disclosing credit card information, as opposed to trust in a more general sense.
What I was angling for in the post was to recommend that merchants need to be more cognizant of the need to add a social layer to their e-commerce sites. I also wanted to speak to the issue of intent - shopping first, social second. But, you are absolutely correct to suggest that consumers use social networks to add social proof when making purchase decisions. This reliance on friends and friends of friends makes sense because it helps consumers use their social intelligence to make better, more informed shopping decisions.
Keep in thoughts that the buy choice happens on your web page, not on your fan web page, and spend your sources accordingly.
Look at public networking sites from a individual viewpoint – what do you like about them yourself, and what irritates you about them? Then framework your time and effort according to what you would like to see as a customer, rather than from the viewpoint of a company or owner. Ask yourself, would you become a “fan” of your own page? Why or why not? Then you have some base to assess what you should do.
You are talking about the "trust" issue (and I fully agree with the social layer matter)- but what about the reviews? They not trustworthy at all and I think that that's something that needs a crucial change in the e-commerce world. The comments are anonymous and I don't have any knowledge about the person whom I should or shouldn't listen to.