How Social Media Impacts Holiday Shopping (and what to do about it)


Well it’s official. It’s summer. And while that might spark memories of flip flops and pool parties for some, here at Launchfire it means that Holiday Promotion Planning Season is underway.

If you’re reading this, we’re guessing you’re in the same boat. Welcome aboard.

To kick things off, we thought we’d look at the reigning champion of holiday shopping influence: Social Media.

Social media was rated the top influencer for holiday purchases by 68% of Adweek survey respondents.[1] Guess who was at the bottom? That’s right, TV and magazine ads were rated the least influential, alongside celebrity endorsements. And holiday gift inspiration on social sites showed a 25% year-over-year increase, while TV saw a 22% decrease year-over-year.[2]
So what exactly are people doing on social media over the holidays?[3]

51% - look for gift ideas

50% - search for discounts, coupons and sale info

45% - read reviews, likes and recommendations

42% - browse products

22% - post comments or share links about stores, sales and products

Clearly people are interacting with social media at multiple points over their shopping journey. Let’s break it down by each stage.

Inspiration Stage  

We’ve all been there. Some people are just ridiculously hard to buy for. Luckily for all of us, there are hundreds of gift ideas for everyone from your brother to your kid’s piano teacher available online. And if you get your products featured where people look for purchasing guidance, that’s also good news for your brand.

So where are they looking? [4]

58% - Pinterest

57% - Blogs

41% - Instagram

37% - Twitter

If you’re surprised that Pinterest tops that list, you shouldn’t be. As of last December, 38 Million people had saved holiday pins.[5]

Featuring your products on Pinterest is a great way to connect with consumers at the Inspiration stage of their shopping journey. Which should appeal to you as a marketer. People who don’t know about your products aren’t going to buy them, right?

For everyone that’s seen the hype on the Pinterest buy buttons — sorry, we’ve got some bad news. Slow consumer adoption is a clear sign that consumers aren’t ready to jump from inspiration to purchase just yet.[6] There are other steps they want to take before committing.

Research/Validate Stage

That brings us to the Research/Validation stage. After you find interesting gift ideas on Pinterest, what do you do? You look up more information about the product. This is where having product reviews is vital. 45% of consumers read reviews, likes, and recommendations on products on social media.[7]
People are researching gifts on: [8]

55% - Facebook

55% - Blogs

45% - Pinterest

39% - Twitter

36% - Instagram

It’s not just your media channels people are going to. 3rd party reviews and blog posts about your products hold particular weight with consumers.  And that means working with influencers and turning consumers into brand advocates is key.

But you shouldn’t neglect reviews on your own website — especially if you have an e-commerce section.

Generating a decent review volume doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s just a matter of motivating customers to tell you what they really think.  

Purchase Stage

After you read some reviews and you find the best gift for your kid’s piano teacher, you’re going to start looking for discounts. Where are you going to look? Like most consumers over the holiday season, you’ll probably head to Social Media.[9]

Which social media platforms do people look for discounts on?

60% - Facebook

49% - Blogs

43% - Twitter

36% - Pinterest

33% -  Instagram

To avoid a price slashing war with your competition, you’ll need to offer different rewards or find ways to get better returns on your discounts.  

Post Purchase Stage

After you buy the perfect gift — and get a killer discount — what are you going to do? Tell your friends about it of course.

Where are people posting about their holiday shopping? [10]

48% - Facebook

40% - Instagram

34% - Pinterest

34% - Twitter

It kind of makes sense. After you do all that work to find the perfect gift, you want to show it off right?

Turning satisfied customers into brand advocates is a huge advantage for you. Especially since 68% of consumers said recommendations on social media influenced their purchase decisions.[11]

What to Do About It

It can be challenging to create social media content that appeals to consumers at every stage along the path to purchase. But keeping these two tactics in mind can help:  

1) Make Interacting With Your Brand Fun

Regardless of what stage consumers are at, making their shopping experience fun helps you sell more products.  

Look at the Inspiration Stage. Part of the reason Pinterest is such a great social site for your products to be on is because it makes product discovery fun (and mildly addictive).  

Consumers want to see more products. Just think of how easy it is to waste time on Pinterest. You go on looking for one thing, and before you know it, you’ve scrolled through hundreds of products.  And you’ve found way more things you like than you originally were searching for.

Translate that to your marketing and you’ll expose consumers to more of your products.

The same goes for the Research Stage.  Reading stat sheets is boring. Making stat sheets interactive or turning them into a game is fun. And when learning about products is enjoyable, you can bet your consumers will a) retain more about the products and b) come back to your brand to research additional products.

2) Motivate Consumers to Act

If you want consumers to post about your brand (and you do) there has to be a reason for them to do it.  You can’t just rely on consumers to post about you because they loved your products. You have to prompt them. And the best way to do that is by offering a reward, like a coupon or exclusive savings. Offering discounts appeals to consumers at the Purchase Stage while ensuring they connect at the Post Purchase Stage.

Plus when you make consumers earn discounts, you get a better ROI on your promotions. Instead of just a short term boost in sales, you get extra email opt-ins, increased social sharing, and new loyalty members — on top of the boost to your bottom line.

Pretty cool, right?