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Why Aren't Customers Buying Social Buy Buttons?


Consumers love to shop and love using social media, but somehow the two passions are not connecting.

Twitter, which has been piloting an embedded buy button in tweets since September 2014, is abandoning the effort. Recent studies from Forrester and GlobalWebIndex indicate generally low consumer usage rates for social buy buttons, which are also offered by platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram.

On the surface, a social buy button seems like a convenient way for consumers to purchase goods without having to leave their favorite social networks or perform additional sign-ins or verifications. However, there are a few specific shortcomings that are impeding the expected success of social buy buttons.

First of all, social buy buttons are easy to miss. They are not especially large and are either surrounded by a densely populated visual landscape (as with Pinterest and Instagram), or are individual posts in a constantly scrolling feed of information (as with Twitter and Facebook, which has also tested buy buttons).

And since consumers are not yet trained to visit social media sites with the intent of making direct purchases, even if they do notice a buy button they may not realize what it is for or be unwilling to experiment with it.

Another problem with buy buttons is that although they allow consumers to make purchases from within social platforms, they still only offer limited information and functionality. A buy button allows consumers to purchase the item displayed in a social media post. However, it does not typically enable a consumer to browse for similar items, look for complementary goods, or receive targeted offers.

In addition, the buy button does not generally enable a consumer to drill down for in-depth product information. All of those more in-depth online shopping features and activities are typically only available on a retailer’s e-commerce site.

Which leads to the other major obstacle to more widespread consumer acceptance of social buy buttons. As mentioned above, most shoppers are not trained to use social media for making purchases. What they are trained to do on social media is search for inspiration.

Consumers visit their favorite social media sites to see what the latest trends, styles and fashions are. They can check out what their friends, family, neighbors and favorite celebrities are wearing, eating, driving, and otherwise using in their daily lives. In addition, social media allows users to instantly receive unbiased third-party commentary and advice from fellow consumers around the globe.

All this makes social media an incredibly valuable tool during the discovery phase of the path to purchase. However, once customers get general inspiration and ideas from perusing social media sites, they generally will perform more detailed product research and browsing elsewhere, and likely make final selection and purchase via yet another touchpoint.

This is not to say social buy buttons are doomed, or have no place in retail. But retailers should be aware they will probably best serve as a way to entice customers to make snap purchase decisions based on discounts and promotions. Think of them of the digital equivalent of the impulse-triggering displays found at the checkout of a physical store.

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