There’s no question that social marketing can be used to drive sales. Shoppers are more technologically savvy — and, in particular, socially savvy — than ever, using their social networks to find both products and product information. Not only are more shoppers buying online than ever but more social networking users are doing that shopping.

This makes social an ideal place for businesses to talk about their products because customers are already there and interested.

The Social Stats Behind Shopping

Advertising products to your followers isn’t an intrusion into their personal social spaces: many customers who are following your brand on social channels specifically want product information. The statistics say that many users specifically follow businesses online to learn more about their products. Broken down by network,

  • 56 percent of Facebook users
  • 47 percent of Twitter users
  • 56 percent of Pinterest

follow businesses online to learn more about their products and services. Though the number following because they want to buy products is lower, with

  • 21 percent of Facebook users
  • 15 percent of Twitter users
  • 25 percent of Pinterest users

who specifically follow on social channels with the intent to buy. However,  that’s still plenty of online interest in making a buy, with social commerce sales forecasted to be 5 percent of total U.S. online retail revenue by 2015. There’s no one-size-fits all solution for getting a piece of the social shopping pie. If you’re aiming to bring in more shoppers, current statistics suggest that engagement can be key — specifically sharing. When a customer shares or favorites a product online, 43 percent of consumers will go on to purchase it. Broken down per network, that’s

  • 38 percent of Facebook users
  • 22 percent of Twitter users
  • 29 percent of Pinterest users

who will go from sharing to buying, whether it’s in a physical store or online. Some of the shares that become purchases are made because customers have decided to buy, but the majority of them are made by customers who are still undecided, but later go on to buy. The end result? Getting customers socially involved can go a long way towards getting them to make a buying decision.

The Right Tools for Social Shopping

Though Twitter’s Cards, Facebook’s Offers, and Pinterest’s Product Pins all allow sellers to highlight their wares in unique ways, social tools aren’t always ideal when it comes to selling products. An ordinary post, tweet, or pin might not easily include important information like price and availability, even if that kind of information is a click away on your online storefront. Giving a potential customer enough information on their social channels to convince them to click through to your website for full product details and, hopefully, click “buy,” involves several steps — and it can be tough to convince a potential customer to go from reading to clicking.

So it’s no surprise that we’re seeing more social networks working to provide better tools for shoppers — and the businesses that court them. Twitter, in particular, is flexing its social shopping muscles by testing the inclusion of a Buy button on certain product-related tweets. Twitter isn’t the first to have this idea: Facebook started testing similar shopping functionality this summer.

A Buy button right in a social message could streamline the process of turning potential customers into actual customers by making it easier than ever to go from sharing to shopping. Though no networks have put such buttons into play on a wide scale yet, the customer response to social shopping we’re seeing without their use indicates that Buy buttons, or similar features, would be likely to drive even higher conversion rates with social selling.

Will Mobile Payments Team Up with Social Marketing?

Mobile shopping is on the rise, too, with customers increasingly comfortable making purchases on their phones or mobile devices. Just consider these stats:

As the number of shoppers continues increase, the amount they’ll spend is projected to rise as well. With customers increasingly using their mobile devices for both social networking and online shopping, is it possible that that the social shopping phenomenon could take a distinctly mobile turn?

Consider Apple Pay, Apple’s recently-announced digital wallet feature launching this month, which allows customers to pay for goods at certain retailers by simply using the Touch ID fingerprint scanner on their iPhone. While this is being pushed as a way to complete in-store purchases for shoppers using a compatible iPhone, it could also impact online shopping. Apple already has plans for Apple Pay to work with a number of shopping apps, including those from Starbucks and Target, so you can make purchases directly from your phone without the hassle of digging out your credit card or even entering a password.

Now imagine this kind of functionality integrated with the Buy buttons Twitter and Facebook are testing. That kind of streamlined shopping definitely has appeal for social marketers trying to sell online: with Apple Pay integration, mobile shoppers could see your product in their social feed, press buy, and complete a purchase in a single step. But even if social networks don’t directly integrate these shopping features, even adding them to your website might appeal to the growing number of mobile — as well as social — shoppers.