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Social Media and Retail: A Sign of Things to Come?

Christina Scolaro
Big Data Download

Social media sites still play a role in only a small portion of online retail sales, but even in the early going merchants can learn a thing or two about what motivates social media users to make a purchase, and why.

A study from software company RichRelevance analyzed 1.5 billion shopping sessions from November 2012 to April 2013. Sessions are defined as clicks that come from a social networking recommendation—users that went to a retailer’s website through Facebook or Pinterest, rather than originating from the retailer itself.

Share of traffic and purchasing to e-commerce is tiny, accounting for less than 0.5 percent of all retail sales, but social media steers a growing portion of retail sales.

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The study found Pinterest’s website traffic rose 19 percent during the period studied, while Facebook’s traffic fell 23 percent.

On top of increased traffic, the study showed Pinterest’s shoppers spent significantly more per checkout, averaging between $140 to $180 per order compared with $60 to $80 orders for Facebook. A possible explanation: Pinterest is laid out like a catalog, and when people “pin” something, it’s often because they want it. Such a motivation stands in contrast to Facebook, which drives consumers to advertisers carrying out sales or other promotions.

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Pinterest's share of referrals is highest in home and furnishings, accounting for 60 percent of all social traffic. Pinterest share is lowest in TV and movies , accounting for less than 10 percent share of traffic.

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