Despite all the hype around social media, consumers remain more likely to obtain or share shopping-related information via more traditional online channels.
In fact, consumers report using email and other more established online channels about half of the time to share shopping information, according to new research from Radius Global Market Research.
By contrast, the market research firm found that consumers use social media anywhere from 9% to 39% of the time -- depending on the product or service category -- to share about shopping.
“There's still uncertainty [among marketers] as to the proper weight to put behind digital media channels, especially social media, to optimize return on investment," said Chip Lister, managing director of Radius GMR.
Yet while social media is used less often than traditional channels for informing purchase decisions, its influence is certainly meaningful, Lister noted.
Radius GMR found that social networks are most often used around baby care equipment (39%), electronics (35%), automobiles (28%), toys and games (23%), and household appliances (23%).
"It's apparent that social media is more influential in those more emotionally connected service and product categories like baby care," Lister added. "It appears that mothers tend to seek out via social media the opinion of other mothers, and are influenced by them fairly often."
More broadly, consumers surveyed by Radius indicated that they were most likely to use online information to inform purchase decisions around big-ticket purchases, such as travel (76% used during last purchase), electronics (73%), automobiles (67%), baby care equipment (66%), and household appliances (64%).
Online sources and social media are less often used around several CPG and personal care categories, including makeup/personal care, home care products, OTC pharmaceuticals, beverages, and packaged foods.
Purchasers across all categories are most likely to utilize online sources before making a purchase versus sharing information about their experience with the product after purchase, Radius found. Two categories are an exception to this rule, however. Purchasers of personal care and makeup products are more likely to gather or share information after purchasing than they are while making a purchase.
Smartphone purchasers are almost as likely to utilize an online source after a purchase as they are during a purchase, according to Radius’ research.
For its study, Radius surveyed U.S. households in the fourth quarter of 2012. The firm's Know More Web panel represents over 3.4 million households, with over 6 million consumers in the U.S.