The undeniable impact of social media on every facet of people’s lives is visible in their day-to-day activities. It plays a huge role in connecting people, friends, and family, and this was the basic purpose for the creation of social media by its inventors. However, the expansion and outreach of social media has allowed it to become a platform that has empowered and helped people from all walks of life, including those who have businesses and wish to reach global audiences for the sake of expanding their businesses (“Shoppers Around the Globe Turn to Social Media For Purchase Inspiration”). Since the information that is shared on social media can reach millions of people all at the same time, it is equally easier for people to look at the information and make an informed decision about purchasing items online. As far as the impact of social media on the buying choice of shoppers is concerned, it is believed that social media is instrumental in influencing people’s choice, persuading them into a purchase and improving their access to different businesses and brands.
The general notion pertaining to the use of social media is to socialize, and this includes all the aspects of people’s lives. People will go online and share their thoughts, express themselves, and even make groups to post information that suits a particular group of people all at the same time. Since there is a higher prevalence of one’s family members and friends online, it is possible that people’s behaviors and choices are influenced and affected by one another. Moreover, social media has allowed individuals to interact with one another more frequently, and thus, people are always connected with each other at all times. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp, and others all serve the purpose of keeping individuals connected through the web and enable them to reach out and call on one another. These platforms also have the added benefit of promoting business and persuading individuals to actually change their decision about certain brands and products that they are regular consumers of.
Digital brands are used by social media platforms for the purpose of producing ads which are put up by them for the sake of keeping the social media running and simultaneously allowing businesses to reach people as well. Millennials are the core users of social media in the present age, and many digital media are constantly in a struggle to make social media the most influential space for millennials and to encourage and influence them accordingly (Arnold). Online buying is webbed through digital marketing, which needs to be very persuasive and rather well developed for the sake of convincing the people to engage in a transaction.
Social media also allows individuals to follow popular individuals such as celebrities and public figures, who are believed to have a superior opinion on shopping ideas and trends that young people generally like to follow. Research has shown that 71% of people are more eager to purchase something they see online if it is recommended by a friend, a celebrity, or endorsed by someone influential and popular (Arnold). This is the influence generally cast by social media, as young people like to follow ‘trends’ and remain in touch with all that is current and popular. This is one feature that is mostly exploited by social media and online business communities as they are capable of spreading the expanse and popularity of their business by influencing the young followers and members.
Figure 1: “How to make an impact on consumers mind.”
Culture of influencers
Social media has been recently plagued by the notion of ‘influencers’ who are individuals who like to blog, post and make pages based on fashion, current trends and everything that is supposed to be done and avoided by the general public. As the name states, these individuals are popularized by their beauty, influence gained by the use of extensive products and materials, and the ability to attract the masses towards their social media platforms. Most of the consumers are influenced by influencers who work in beauty and fashion, and they garner a lot of customers for these businesses, respectively. This mimics the way fashion magazines used to work in the past, as individuals used to be influenced by the content that was shown by fashion magazines and would follow them immediately. The same is done by fashion bloggers and influencers who post, share, and reach out for the masses on social media. Influencers are known to have increased the number of buyers moving towards fashion houses like Sephora, Revolve.com and many others, all of which are accessed by people because they are active on social media (Arnold).
The sales, as well, in many cases are pushed when influencers and celebrities endorse the products and repeatedly use glamour and beauty as the tools through which they gather public support. YouTube happens to be one such media where social outreach is very pronounced, and individuals can easily watch the videos, click on the given links, and make a purchase easily. They also develop their favorites over a period of time, and many individuals develop loyalty towards their favorite influencer (Roesler). This can eventually influence the way they buy things and purchase online and offline. Millennials are the main population that is affected and influenced in this case, and they are effectively found pre-booking items and buying things as soon as they are launched because they are aware of their presence way before others. This is only possible through their regular use of social media, the advertisements they see, and the influencers they follow regularly.
Figure 2: Practical Ecommerce
Figure 1 is a representation of how individuals are actively influenced by social media, and their purchase choices are changed and controlled. The customer is first made aware of the presence of certain products and their availability in the market (Chaney). They might be previously unaware of many things which are easily accessible through social media. Once the awareness is spread, the person is then into the stage of considering buying the product, and they might begin to actually think about getting it, probably influenced by the number of likes, comments, and shares that the relevant advertisement might have. This makes them change their resolve and intent, and they might want to purchase the product by giving it a try since so many others are doing it as well (Chaney). Finally, they will make their decision regarding the product and will go ahead and purchase it. This puts an end to their curiosity and constant worrying to remain in-trend (Chaney). Many people go through this cycle when they come across products and advertisements on social media.
Branding and brand knowledge
Social media plays a very important role in causing people to shift their interests and likes regarding the products very easily. Brand knowledge is something that can be developed through the use of social media, and this can cause shoppers to become aware of different brands in the market. Any brand that is present in the market is capable of spreading its message, social media can also act as a medium through which branding can be carried out easily, and it can assist different businesses in maintaining their brand image in front of the customer (Pütter).
Customers who might be used to buying a brand of a particular kind can eventually be persuaded into purchasing another because of the relative influence of social media. Companies are also looking at the means of improving and inculcating brand loyalty as a method of seeking the support of more and more customers brought through with the help of social media. Facebook, for example, is accessed by more than half of its users each day (Richard and Sarita). This means that the billions of people who are accessing it every day are also exposed to the numerous advertisements put up by customers and are obviously influenced by them when they watch videos or see pictures and posts regarding them. This can mold their choice very effectively, causing them to deflect from their usual shopping behavior and adopt a different one.
Brand trust is also developed through social media. Different brands are likely to make their pages on social media and get followers through them. When this happens, the more followers a page or a brand has, the more likely it is to be trusted by the people. Individuals are also capable of posting their reviews about the product on the social media pages and rate the products sold by the brand. The better the rating and higher the number of followers, the greater is the chance of developing trust and loyalty toward the brand (Richard and Sarita). Brands and businesses can use a number of ways to attract the customers, and this goes from designing effective posts that can indulge the customer, and then present the brand in such a way that more people are willing to buy the product as well.
Improved customer knowledge and grasp
Businesses benefit as much as the customer benefits from an online experience or influence they have gathered from social media. One of the most prominent ways is listening to or rather viewing, the insight that is provided by customers. Almost all businesses in the current day are accessible through Facebook, Twitter, or other means, and they are keen on developing a business based on their social media (Chaney). However, even if they are not too keen, they can still learn from and access their social media to learn about the views that customers hold regarding their work (Chaney). Posts can have different comments, and they all come from the insight by the customer that can influence other people and simultaneously help the businesses improve their work as well. People can post different recommendations and insights which are valuable for the customers as well (Chaney). Businesses need to learn more from social media pages, and this can also build their pool of customers when others see what is said or posted about a certain business.
In the current age, people turn towards reviews and what others say about businesses and ventures more than they would generally rely on their own knowledge and by checking a certain product. Even when individuals need to check out a new restaurant or place they wish to visit, they choose to check its reviews on social media (Pütter). Once they do this, they are more willing to follow the given reviews rather than follow their own mind. It is again, the influencing power of social media that can change the way people think about certain products and ventures and buying and purchase is also something that is influenced by this as well.
Moreover, studies have shown that a large number of people refer to social media when they have to do something like travel and learn about something new or gain knowledge of a new product. This can make it rather easy for them to use social media as a powerful tool which can add to their existing knowledge and simultaneously make them alter the way they think of brands and their choice of shopping as well (Sema).
Figure 3: Gesenhues: “Survey: 90% Of Customers Say Buying Decisions Are Influenced By Online Reviews.”
Emotional and psychological manipulation
According to behaviorists, people are involved in the act of purchase or buying because of either of the two things; they are avoiding a problem and loss they are faced with, or they are trying to keep up with the trends and wish to remain happy and pleased (Ahmed). The act of shopping itself is one that is considered therapeutic, and people will need to shop out of necessity or pleasure. Be it any reason, it is up to the companies and brands that are endorsing the products to make them appear in such a way that he customer will buy it based on the two main factors. Companies then work on these psychological bases so as to fulfill the needs of the customers or to convince them that they need to buy the product that has been designed for them. Social media presence is believed to be the best strategic tool for businesses which can encourage them to make their way in the business work and to change the way people generally shop (Ahmed).
The emotional influence is believed to be quite prominent and successful when it comes to social media and advertising. Some people, no matter how rational and strong-minded as they are, can be easily swayed by the way products are presented on social media, and this can be known or unknowing to them. Many people are also impulsive buyers. Hence their purchase decisions can be irrational and rather quick, and social media can fuel such behavior as well (Ahmed). On many occasions, people would have known about the product and might even have thought about purchasing it in the past, but the truth of the matter is they have not been persuaded into buying it until they were influenced by its social media presentation (Ahmed). This goes for cell phones, clothes, makeup, and general items of use that many people like to use. Appealing to emotions is one of the most powerful tools employed by social media into changing the way people think about different products and like to incorporate their use in life.
Moreover, it is the curiosity related to a certain product in the market that can have a huge impact on the purchase trends as well. Buyers are usually suspicious and curious about new products in the market and will be intrigued by what is presented before them, normally without testing them before. Social media is a platform that is open for all people, which is why it is normal for people to see many different products and items sold on it. Ads can also serve the same purpose. Credibility and trust are two factors that are most important for business on social media. Social media can allow people to look forward to using new and different products because they silently believe that social media will not lie to them or break their trust. They are also aware of the fact that something might not be right only because it is present on social media, yet they are willing to give it a chance because of the influence that comes their way (Ahmed). People are convinced to buy different things because they are recommended by trusted friends or family and usually a blogger that they are following keenly and know that he or she is endorsing something they can trust. It is this behavior that many individuals and companies prey on within the online world, and businesses usually pay the bloggers to endorse their products as well (Ahmed). Eventually, this can have a huge impact on the way the people are buying a product or looking forward towards getting it for themselves. Mostly, it is women who are influenced the most as shoppers, because they are following other influential women on social media who can sway their opinions and change their interests (Ahmed).
A tool of power
Social media is considered a very powerful tool because of the fact that it has an effective outreach upon the masses. It is very easy to share information, ask questions, and be heard. This powerful feeling which is gathered by the people call to allow them to use social media to their liking and then encourage others to follow them and come under the wing of their influence (Ray). They are constantly connected with other people, which then makes them stay in the loop of knowledge and information that comes to them through social media. They are also enabled to learn more about products and gain more information regarding them because social media allows them to do so (Ray). People are constantly keeping up with trends and are never left behind because social media is always an up-to-date portal which is enabling them to stay connected and engaged. Also, they are a part of the brand fan community, which means they are part of the endorsers and promoters of the brand. This also gives the consumers a sense of satisfaction and importance as they believe they are playing a huge role in the promotion of a brand and maintaining its existence in the community as well (Ray). These people are also a huge part of the promotions, sales, and other profits that are provided by the companies to loyal customers as a means of engaging the people and allowing more to join them as well. Customer loyalty is retained through this process, and the users of social media keep following the brand as well. Hence, their choice is swayed, and they turn into loyal customers who will not like to turn their back on the products of their choice (Ray). In the end, these individuals happen to become loyal customers, who are making an informed shopping decision because they have taken the consultation and help from the other users on social media.
Social media plays a huge role in people lives, and one of the most important roles it plays is the one related to the buying choice of shoppers. People are ultimately influenced by others, the reviews, and various influencers on social media that change the way they shop. This has a huge impact on businesses that operate with the help of social media in most cases.
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