How Shoppers Use Twitter During The Buying Process

Chris CrumeCommerce

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Twitter is sharing some research from studies it conducted with Millward Brown and Crimson Hexagon about Twitter's role in the buying process for shoppers. Twitter says its findings can help businesses maximize sales by "sending Twitter shoppers the right message at the right moment."

The Millward Brown study was commissioned by Twitter last summer, and utilized a ten-minute online questionnaire to survey 1,128 U.S. women age 21-54 who said they had purchased a household cleaning product or an item from a home goods store in the past year. Twitter says Millward Brown compared these Twitter users to the average user of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Vine and Tumblr. Twitter partnered with Crimson Hexagon to analyze U.S. retail chatter on Twitter from February 2013 to January 2014. This chatter was divided into categories, and they used keyword analysis to determine the share of conversation for each stage of the purchase process for each category.

The Millward Brown survey determined that Twitter users have bigger budgets and buy more often than non-users and that users planned to spend 21.7% more than non-users over the next six months, and said they had made nearly twice as many purchases in the month prior. According to Twitter, on average, its users shopped online 6.9 times a month, while non-users shopped online just 4.3 times a month.

"Whether they’re learning about a new product or on the brink of buying, shoppers rely on Twitter for information and advice," says Angie Ficek, Retail Lead on Twitter's research team. "Our survey with Millward Brown showed that nearly half (49%) of female Twitter shoppers say Twitter content has influenced their purchase decisions, which makes the platform prime real estate for brands."

"These shoppers on Twitter are also engaged: they’re 160% more likely to stay up-to-date on brand news and promotions, 120% more likely to search for deals and sales and 240% more likely to converse with a brand than retail shoppers on the average social network," Ficek added.

Facebook appears to be working on changing that with new business features for its Messenger service, but we'll see how that goes.

According to Twitter, shoppers use the service differently for different retail categories. In the Crimson Hexagon study, they found that while users do turn to Twitter at "every" stage of purchase for "every" retail category, conversation varies from category to category. Over half of apparel-related Twitter retail conversations indicuated users were in the "awareness" phase, for example. For grocery/pharmacy conversations that was true for only 8%.

Twitter is sharing a series of interesting graphs looking at what phases represent each category best:

Apparel

Home Improvement

Big Box Retail

Consumer Electronics

Purchase motivation also varies by retail category, Twitter says. Whereas consumer electronics shoppers tend to talk about ads while in the purchase intent mindset, apparel shoppers talk most about price, and grocery/pharmacy shoppers talk most about recommendations.

"To help you apply this data to your marketing strategy, we’ve identified the 'purchase funnel hot spot' and 'top sales driver' for each retail category," Ficek tells marketers. "The 'hot spot' is the area of the purchase funnel where a high proportion of Twitter conversation happens relative to other retail categories. For example, 25% of the Twitter conversation around big box retail was related to brand or product evaluation — this was higher than for any other retail category. The 'top sales driver' tells you what is driving the most purchase-related conversation in each category. For big box, this was customer service. These insights reveal areas of opportunity for brands in each retail category to help deliver consumers the right content at the right time."

For big box retail, Twitter's "purchase funnel hot spot" is evaluation with customer service being the top sales driver. Twitter advises making sure customer support efforts are competitive.

For consumer electronics, the hot spot is post-purchase chatter with advertisements being the top sales driver. Twitter recommends creating incentives for people to tweet about their purchases and releasing "buzz-worthy" ads.

For Apparel, the hot spot is purchase intent with price being the top sales driver. Twitter suggests using engaging Promoted Tweets with images to promote deals and sales to drive traffic.

For Home Improvement, the hot spot is conversion with "seeking suggestions" as the top sales driver. Twitter recommends using visually engaging tweet formats to distribute branded how-tos and using links to product pages.

Finally, for Grocery/Pharmacy, the hot post is interest/consideration with recommendations being the top sales driver. Twitter says to share product recommendations that align with trends and meet customer needs.

Twitter doesn't get into the potential of its buy button, which is still testing, but you can certainly see where it could fit into the strategy across all of these categories.

The question for many businesses will be how to allocate budgets across social channels in the wake of emerging features. Twitter and Facebook have both already announced their buy buttons. Pinterest hasn't announced one, but is rumored to be readying one, and is expected by some to perhaps be the best for driving purchases.

Take a look at some this research from ShareThis, which looks at Pinterest's role in purchasing.

Of course Facebook has been making quite a few moves that will make the social network better for selling products, and it's certainly the most ubiquitous of the social networks.

Social media still has a long way to go in the ecommerce field. Bounce Exchange recently conducted a survey, and found that 83% of online marketers believe social media marketing is important for their businesses, but after analyzing over $1 billion U.S. ecommerce transactions, it found that social media marketing efforts only account for about 1.2% of total site conversions. Social conversion rates were 51% lower than sites’ overall average rates, it found.

Images via Twitter

Chris Crum

Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.