Social media’s role in path to purchase

Social media’s role in path to purchase
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Consumer path to purchase has always been a major business consideration, especially for B2C establishments. Over the last decade, brick and mortar operations have largely evolved into clicks and mortar businesses thanks to the impact of online shopping and ease of access to customer reviews.

Factoring in the power of third party endorsement via social media, there are now more external influences on the customer purchase journey than ever before. 

Research organisation Vision Critical recently released a whitepaper titled From Social to Sale, which outlines eight key prompts to assist in identifying your potential influence in driving purchase through social media. Questions range from assessing your target audience’s social media usage habits to the impact smartphones have on customer sharing and purchase decisions. One prompt in particular delves into an increasingly common query posed to marketing departments: how long does it take customers to go from sharing to shopping?

In a time where we’re constantly challenged to quantify engagement and prove value in metrics outside of ‘likes’ and ‘followers’, understanding the behaviours of your consumers on social media and aligning them with a review of purchase habits might just unlock a measurement metric that adequately links back to the bottom line. This activity can also assist in distinguishing whether your presence or purpose in social should be focused on sales or as a supplemental brand-building activity.

According to the research, after one week of sharing or favouriting items on social networks, roughly half of purchases inspired by social media have already been made. Three weeks after sharing, that figure jumps to more than 80 percent. In theory, this could indicate a shorter span for reporting (and demonstrating) tangible business growth, which could impact the type of social strategy that your organisation takes on board.

How can businesses apply these learnings in the here and now? While an investment in research will provide the most accurate of recommendations relating to your specific customer profile, applying industry knowledge about demographic and habit information can assist in providing insights for immediate action. In addition, the inclusion of social path to purchase prompts should be considered as an additional suite of questions for any regular benchmarking analysis your organisation may currently undertake.

It is now essential for business leaders, when setting their goals and objectives, to factor in social at the early stages of planning in order to harness its full potential. In essence, we no longer have the luxury of treating social as a business afterthought: companies need to shift their mindsets to reflect the reality that strategic integration with social is imperative to success.

While a universal formula for charting social influence on purchase is still something of the future, there are steps you can take to better understand the sharing-to-purchase timeline for your own customers, which in turn will better define the role social media has to play in your business strategy.

Lindsay McHugh is an account manager at Porter Novelli Sydney

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