AMA: Social Commerce Ready To Break Out

With the holiday shopping season in high gear, many consumers would use social networking sites as a source for ideas if marketers offered them in an appropriate way, according to a new survey from the American Marketing Association.

"We're starting to see a merging of ecommerce and social networking, on sites such as Yahoo! Shopping. This 'social commerce' is creating a new way to interact with customers," said Nancy Costopulos, chief marketing officer of the AMA, in a statement.

"But we have to be careful," she added. "Social networking sites have been successful because they allow for real connections to take place. The research shows an opportunity for marketers to participate, but they must have something real and relevant to say--if they try to go in with stealth tactics or over-hyping the brand, they will face a serious backlash."

Some 49 percent of all respondents said they would search for holiday gift ideas, find out about upcoming holiday sales, or download coupons if those activities were available through social networking sites, the AMA reported.

Some 29 percent said they would buy products on a social networking site if that service were available.

Still, across multiple product categories, respondents' top online resource for finding out about hot new holiday products will be search engines, the research concluded--with 43 percent selecting that as their top option.

Online consumer reviews were the first choice for hot product information in categories whose products involve a fair amount of consideration--automotive (17 percent), electronics (17 percent), and computers and software (15 percent).

The AMA released the research as a lead-in to its Mplanet event, which kicks off on Wednesday in Orlando. Conducted by the Opinion Research Corp., the survey consisted of online interviews with 1,098 Internet-representative U.S. consumers age 18 or older--527 of them men, 571 women.

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