Social media has a measurable impact on consumer purchase decisions, according to a new study from the Advertising Research Foundation based on a survey of 2,000 U.S. shoppers. The study was commissioned by the ARF, conducted by Communispace, comScore, Converseon, and Firefly Millward Brown, and sponsored by General Motors, Google, Kraft, Motorola, and Young & Rubicam. Technical guidance was provided by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
The study, titled “Digital & Social Media in the Purchase Decision Process,” found that roughly one-third of shoppers said they were either introduced to a brand or product, or changed their opinion about a brand or product during the buying process, because of social media. What’s more, 22% of shoppers surveyed by the ARF said that social media was “important in my final purchase decision.”
By the same token, the ARF study emphasizes that many consumers may not be fully aware of the factors influencing their purchase decisions, as “some ‘shopping’ behaviors are taking place outside of consumer consciousness, as digital and social media have infiltrated consumers’ lives…”
On this note ARF executive vice-president for primary research Todd Powers stated: “This state of constant interaction with brands through digital and social media has come to challenge the purchase funnel, as we have traditionally understood it. This also challenges the notion that consumers are aware of the influences on their purchase decisions, and that they always make decisions consciously.”
While ARF studies are something of a gold standard for advertising research, there are some other recent studies suggesting a link between social media and purchasing behavior. Earlier this week I wrote about a study by researchers from the University at Buffalo School of Management, Aalto University and Texas A&M University, who were able to correlate social media engagement with increased purchases for a large specialty firm in the northeast U.S.
According to co-author Ram Bezawada, assistant professor of marketing in the School of Management at the University at Buffalo, “Our results show that when customers engage with a business through social media they contribute about 5.6 percent more to the firm’s bottom line than customers who do not.”