Social Sharing Hits Parity with Google Search

April 3rd, 2012

A recent online study shows consumers find "social sharing" equivalent to Google search in helpfulness when looking for a product to buy. It does seem logical that word of mouth from friends will hold more sway in the purchase decision vs. advertising. But with 800M subscribers strong, Facebook represents the formidable "change" power of the social revolution, and a new on-line tour de force directly confronting the Google Search/Ad model of Internet revenue hegemony.

In its Social Impact Study: How Consumers See It, Sociable Labs said it surveyed a group of 1088 online shoppers who also use Facebook, from mid-January to early February 2012, with the majority of shoppers using and (more importantly) taking action, based on social sharing that boosts confidence of the buyer far beyond what any targeted on-line ad can deliver.

Sociable Labs says social sharing has moved into "a mainstream activity" and notes that 62% of all online shoppers are reading product-related comments from friends on Facebook, with 75% of these shoppers clicking through to visit the retailer’s site (no Google search enters the process here). Further, social sharing drives conversions, with 53% of shoppers who click through to the retailer’s site buying the product that was shared.

All told, that translates to a whopping 25% Share-to-Purchase Funnel of All Shoppers, according to the group. In other words, get this right, one in four of online retail customers can come from the social, not search engine, side of the web (see image.) That’s huge!

But beyond the boost in shopper confidence and conversions (from shoppers to buyers) once the purchase is made, a whopping 81% share their purchase details with other like-minded "friends," creating the coveted "viral effect" that ripples throughout the social network fabric. Better still, the study also indicates these Social Buyers share with others twice as often as social visitors (those who didn’t buy) and this group posts to Facebook 2.6 times more often, according to the study.

Mobile Apps are already emerging that take advantage of this trend. For example, MyShopanion for the iOS tags itself as the "ultimate shopping companion" with the promise to "kill buyer’s remorse" through the Social Mobile Shopping experience. It includes offering instant feedback from friends, with product like and dislike tags, barcode, keyword and image price comparisons-and of course, instant sharing of purchasing that continues the viral growth.

We expect on-line ad dollars to continue to be spent heavily in both social and search engine camps as the power of "word-of-mouth" versus "brute force searching," continue to bump up against each other. Some like the do-it-yourself, online search and discover process that brings to the group the "best shopping deal" while others rely on friends and word-of-mouth recommendations from those "in-the-know." But as the study shows the power of social networks in discovery, click-through and final conversion to the coveted online sale is not in doubt, and this time it’s the social web that’s changing everything. - Steve Sechrist

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