Umass Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research Blog

Millennials and Social Commerce: Brands and Buy Buttons

Social Commerce is a term that describes the intersection of e-commerce and social networking sites and has changed the face of business as we know it. Social commerce refers to electronic commerce that uses social networks to assist  in the buying of selling of products. Social Commerce utilizes user ratings, referrals, online communities and social advertising to facilitate online shopping. Millennials, those that are between 15-35 years old, have been quick to adopt and utilize social commerce. According to Forbes there are 80 million Millennials in the United States and they spend more than $200 billion annually. This makes Millennials an attractive segment for marketers.

This influence that Millennials have on commerce is causing companies to focus their approach on the online buying habits of Millennials. According to a study done by Deloitte, younger adult consumers are heavier users of digital than older generations. Forty-seven percent of all Millennial consumers use social media during their shopping journey, compared to 19% of non-Millennials. Similarly, 37% of Millennial consumers spend more due to their use of digital, versus only 23% of non-Millennials. Nineteen percent of Millennial shoppers purchase their shopping basket items online prior to picking them up in-store, compared to 12% of non-Millennials.

In September 2014, ShareThis released one of the first studies focusing on Millennials and social commerce, gathering data by observing online browsing and social patterns of Millennials. They conclude that for these young consumers, interactivity and discussion are central to purchase decisions. The study did not report on behaviors for any specific platforms and reported findings only in relation to the non-Millennial population, for example saying Millennials are “3x more likely” to behave in a certain way.

This study, conducted by the Center for Marketing Research (CMR) at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, is an in-depth look at current purchasing habits of Millennials using three of the most widely used social networking platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest). This is the third study conducted by CMR on the topic of Millennials and social commerce. The others were conducted in 2013 and 2014 and changes over time will be noted. In an effort to discern what turns a like, follow or pin into a sale, this study, like the previous studies, explores and analyzes lead conversion tactics as identified by Millennials themselves. Also included is a look at mobile technology and its changing role in online purchasing. The potential for “buy” buttons is explored along with specifics on what products Millennials are buying from popular platforms.


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