Buying an item online, especially from social media platforms, is a gamble. On the one hand, shoppers can purchase a beautiful item that brings them giddy joy. On the other hand, they can buy from a scammer who either ignores their inquiries about an unshipped item or delivers to them a flimsy product that, although sold for 30 dollars, clearly cost two dollars to produce. Yet, despite the risks, people still buy items from social media platforms.
According to a Bizrate Insights survey conducted for Emarketer, 35 percent of the surveyed participants have purchased items on social media. There are many reasons to buy from social media platforms, but the most obvious is convenience. Rather than searching for an item, the item comes to the shoppers in the form of a targeted ad adjusted to their interest and website activity. The shoppers click the ad, purchase the item, then, voilà, it appears on their doorsteps a week later.
Still, there are reasons not to buy from social media. Despite efforts to curb deceitful activity, scams proliferate, exposing shoppers to shady businesses and unpleasant shopping experiences. When shoppers buy from Facebook or Instagram, they do so with caution, skepticism, and plenty of research, as with the case of Alyssa Villanueva, who deliberates for two to three months before purchasing an item from a social media platform.
Before purchasing an item from a social media ad, Villanueva (with whom I spoke about her experience purchasing items from social) does intensive research on the brand by reading comments and reviews. Although Villanueva deliberates longer for lesser-known brands, she has no problem buying from a well-known brand in a timely manner.
“I’m faster at buying from big brands just because they have the established reputation,” said Villanueva.
Some of the social media users I spoke to don’t buy from social ads because they assume most businesses to be scammers and cite the eerily accurate targeting as a reason to distrust social media. But while brands and businesses are regarded with suspicion, influencers are not.
Asia Howard, digital marketing specialist at Vyond, spoke to me about her experience with social media ads. Although Howard doesn’t buy because of an ad she sees on social media, she buys because of a recommendation from an influencer.
“If that influencer endorses that brand, it’s different because it’s as if a friend is giving you a recommendation,” Howard said. “Also, if you’ve been following an influencer for years, you have more trust with them rather than a foreign brand you’ve never heard of.”
At a time when trust in social media is declining, advertisers may have a difficult time convincing users to click on their ads, let alone purchase from their businesses. And if those ads do attract attention, buyers usually deliberate longer, delaying the buyer’s journey.
But while brands and businesses are regarded with suspicion, influencers are not—that’s something to be hopeful for.