Over the past year, buy buttons have become a popular trend among many social sites. Google announced their own buy button this summer and many other social media sites including Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram have rolled out their own. Buy buttons are unique in that they provide a call to action with the opportunity for consumers to purchase advertised items without leaving their current website. The goal is to provide a more seamless experience and streamline the purchasing process for users. As we see mobile’s influence continue to grow, the most important asset these buttons seem to provide is a way to make purchasing on mobile easier. However, if you’re considering hopping onto the social media buy button train soon, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons.
Social media use has continued to grow and become a large part of our daily lives, especially for younger audiences. In 2014, those aged 15 to 19 spent an average of three hours per day on social media sites while those between the ages of 20 to 25 spent two. That’s a lot of time online in which you can capture the attention of Millennials. Many of these social media platforms haven’t previously provided an easy way for users to act on content and ads in these spaces. For example, up until recently, Instagram didn’t allow links in their posts. These new buttons provide a way for users to easily interact rather than just viewing the image. With so many people using social media each day, this provides a new way to offer your products for instant purchase to large numbers of users.
Additionally, many of these sites like Facebook and Instagram will have the ability to use information from a user’s profile such as their likes, demographics, and interests to better target them. Is your audience interested in the outdoors or are they fashion focused? This provides a good way to reach users with the lifestyle and interests that fit your brand.
As previously mentioned, the most important advantage buy buttons provide is an easier purchasing experience on mobile devices. Purchase information (such as credit card numbers) can be saved and used for future purchases, which helps alleviate the headache of having to re-enter card numbers for every purchase. Other methods of purchase such as Apple Pay and Pay Pal can also be used depending on the site, all of which ease the checkout process on mobile. As mobile’s influence continues to grow, these buy buttons take one step toward trying to combat mobile’s lower conversion rates. It’s important to note here that Instagram is the only exception as they don’t save payment information and their “shop now” buttons open a different page for users to complete their purchase.
Even with these potential advantages, it’s important to evaluate the pros with the potential cons.
For some sites, like Instagram, these ads and their content can be short lived. Once a user scrolls past the ads, they’ve lost their only chance to act. This is because you cannot save items in a cart like you would on a retailer’s website. For others, such as Pinterest, old pins can easily be repined and brought back up to the top of a user’s feed. This poses a problem when items that are no longer available begin receiving attention again. With this, updating out-of-stock items and inventory needs to be addressed. Advertising out of stock items won’t help purchasers or advertisers, so sending real time data on item availability will be essential. This process can be arduous for retailers with constantly changing inventory. This is especially true for fashion retailers who are constantly changing inventory due to size, color, demand etc.
Additionally, with the number of people on social media and the volume at which they post, it may be hard for advertisers to stand out among the clutter. Five million Instagram images are uploaded daily while more than 500 million tweets are sent out. Competing in this space filled with endless status updates, selfies, and more may prove difficult.
Not to mention, no strong data yet exists on the performance of these buy buttons or whether consumers actually want to purchase on these platforms. Does someone mindlessly scrolling through Instagram really want to make a purchase? Will the audiences on certain social sites, such as Pinterest for example, be more inclined to make a purchase? Therefore, be cautious as the return on these ads might not be what you expect. It will be interesting to see whether users, especially younger audiences that use social media frequently, will view these ads as trustworthy or gimmicky. Instagram seems to be the most cautious and focused on making sure that ads blend in seamlessly with the rest of a user’s newsfeed, but we still don’t know if these buttons will help bring in revenue.
Another thing to keep in mind is that selection will be limited for most of the social sites. Instead of being able to see an entire product line, as a user would on a retailer’s website, these ads are only able to show a limited number of items, although Pinterest allows for retailers to load their whole product catalog. Providing the right product, to the right user, at the right time may prove difficult. Average order value will also be lower when purchasing on a social media site instead of the retailer’s website, as there is no opportunity to add other items to their cart.
Takeaways Moving into the Holiday Season
For now, given competing priorities, we’re not seeing it rise to the top for most retailers. The best approach going into the holidays is to keep an eye on social media’s influence, take note of how these buy buttons perform, and watch their impact. Forrester Research Analyst, Sucharita Mulpuru advised in her blog on this topic, “Merchants that are intrigued by these offerings are wise to test and learn but to have low expectations.”
Last year social media directly generated only 1.9% of digital purchases during the holiday season, so while they don’t directly drive substantial revenues for most retailers, their influence on sales in other channels remains to be seen. Although not the silver bullet of the upcoming holidays, social media buy buttons do provide new opportunities for retailers. We know that social media has a strong impact on online purchases, in fact a recent report by Epsilon found that a retailers’ social media usage (29%), and brands’ social media usage (28%) were the top influencers when prompting shoppers to try new brands and products. This makes the advent of social media buy buttons an interesting new solution to watch over the coming months. If performance and usage proves to be positive, these buttons could be an area worth expanding into, especially if it helps to generate greater brand awareness and increases mobile conversion.