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Here’s Why People Aren’t Shopping Through Social

With Snapchat attracting Adidas and Nike for exclusive product launches and Instagram investing in shopping features for its platform, social networks are investing in ways to facilitate commerce. So what’s keeping consumers from buying?

Sumo Heavy, a digital commerce agency based in Philadelphia and New York, set out to get some answers, polling more than 1,000 consumers ages 18 and older, 53 percent of whom are women. Though usage of sites like Pinterest (down 17 percent) and Twitter (down 10 percent) have dropped since Sumo’s inaugural social commerce study two years ago, Instagram and Snapchat have gained in popularity, with usage climbing 29 percent and 96 percent, respectively.

No one will deny social’s role in the path to purchase. Social networks remain perhaps the ultimate destination for inspiration or confirmation, according to the 48 percent of consumers who told Sumo they’ve snapped up a product that they discovered via social. Another 58 percent credit social platforms for influencing their final purchase decision, even if social wasn’t the original point of discovery. Seeing a product worn or used by a perfectly packaged influencer or in dreamy aspirational marketing can go a long way toward nudging someone from consideration to checkout, it seems.

Facebook’s usage has dipped, thanks in part to a raft of scandals, but its sheer volume of users and reach mean it remains the most influential platform at 38 percent—for the moment. Sumo Heavy found that Instagram is showing greater pull with consumers, its influence jumping from 10 percent to 22 percent from the original 2016 survey—a change of 120 percent. For Snapchat, it’s a mixed bag. Though its influence has tripled over 24 months from 2 percent to 7 percent, representing a 250 percent upward trend, that’s still a far cry from the clout of its larger peers.

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“Buy buttons” might be popping up across social platforms but just 18 percent of consumers told Sumo Heavy they’ve actually clicked or tapped through to transact. The remaining 82 percent seems to be preoccupied by three main questions: is it secure (71 percent)? What happens to my data (65 percent)? And—is this channel for real (64 percent)?

“Shoppers are worried about inputting financial and personal information through social media,” the report said, “partly because they’re not sure if it’s a legitimate channel for transaction.”

Similarly, conversational commerce, via chatbots and the like, continues to lag, partly due to the 42 percent who said they’re unfamiliar with what the technology even is. It could be that artificial intelligence-powered chatbots are better suited for interaction than transaction, as more than a third (37 percent) said they’ve had some sort of contact with a bot and most (72 percent) described the experience as useful.

In smaller numbers, some of the survey takers described their chatbot interactions as a waste of time (16 percent), hard to use and cumbersome (10 percent) and just plain confusing (6 percent).

Still, retailers see AI-based chat as a practical way to ease the burden on customer care teams by automating the service for frequent, common and low-level customer needs.

Participants in the survey were evenly distributed across age groups, with 26 percent between 18 and 29; 22 percent ages 30 to 44; 24 percent between 45 and 60; and 28 percent older than 60 years old.