Survey: Social commerce held back by security, privacy concerns

by Oct 23, 20180 comments

A new survey from Sumo Heavy Industries has both good and bad news for social media. The survey was conducted in May among more than 1,000 US adults.

The purpose of the survey was to determine “social media’s impact on consumer behavior and purchasing habits, as well as understand how emerging social platforms and technology can serve e-commerce brands and retailers.” It’s a follow up to an earlier survey conducted in 2016.

Bad news for ‘social commerce.’ The survey found 82 percent of respondents have not used a social buy button, which is unchanged from the findings in 2016. However, 18 percent have made direct purchases through a social site.

What has prevented social buying from growing? According to the survey:

  • 71 percent of respondents were concerned about security
  • 65 said privacy was an inhibitor
  • 64 said that they weren’t sure social commerce was “legitimate.”

Unfortunately there’s no additional context for the legitimacy finding.

Only 20 percent of respondents were not aware that one could buy directly through social sites. So the challenge is not a lack of awareness; respondents are communicating a lack of trust in social media as a direct buying channel.

Social influence on purchasing is significant. There are lots of studies that indicate people consult social media sites as part of their purchase decision-making. As a basic matter, Sumo survey found that 81 percent of respondents said they “use social media regularly.”

In the aggregate that number was consistent with findings in 2016. However there has been movement between the sites, with Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter seeing declines and Instgram and Snapchat experiencing usage growth.

Just under half of the survey respondents (48 percent) said that they’ve bought products or services discovered on social media. That number is up from 42 percent in 2016. Beyond discovery, 58 percent said that social media influences their purchase decisions in some way (often this is through reviews or content). That figure was up 3 points from 2016.

The following was the order of influence of the platforms:

  1. Facebook
  2. Instagram
  3. Pinterest
  4. Twitter
  5. Snapchat

In terms of growth, however, Snapchat’s influence grew the largest since 2016. That was followed by Instagram and Twitter. Facebook was flat.

What matters to marketers. Most marketers already understand that social media play a meaningful role in discovery and consumer purchase decisions. This data is more confirmation of that.

In terms of retailers trying to drive purchases directly on social media, the data argue that there’s a lot more that has to be done to inspire consumer confidence. Indeed, it may not be worth trying to push social buying. Instead, at least in the short term, marketers should continue to build awareness and content around products or services with the expectation that buying will happen through another channel or offline.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog,
Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on
Twitter or find him at

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