How Social Media Makes You Buy Things You Never Knew You Needed

And it’s happening at a shocking rate, says a new Curalate report.

Photo by Polke | iStock

It’s not news that online shopping is on the rise, but what’s really mind boggling is just how many people shop online after seeing a product on social media now.

According to the e-commerce experts at the Philly-based Curalate, social media continues to change how consumers discover products. Historically, e-commerce has been fueled by search — if you needed a new coat, that’s what you’d hunt down on the web. But now, consumers increasingly shop online because they stumbled upon something on social media.

“When people follow others on social, they’re intentionally opting to receive content from that person of brand. That content can make thumbs stop and cause people to ask, “What’s that?” writes Curalate in a new report.

The company recently surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers, ages 18 to 65, about their online shopping habits and the findings confirm that social media is “the new storefront.” A whopping 76 percent of U.S. consumers said they’ve made a purchase after seeing an item on the brand’s social media and about 55 percent of those U.S. consumers made that purchase online.

Here are some other survey findings:

1. Facebook (surprisingly not Instagram) has led to the most discoveries.

About 78 percent of younger consumers report seeing a product they were interested in on Facebook in the last three months. Pinterest and Instagram were tied, with 59 percent of young consumers saying they recently discovered a product on each of those platforms. But consumers are discovering products and brands on every social channel (so that includes Twitter and Snapchat, too), Curalate says, so it’s key that brands don’t play favorites.

2. Consumers are more likely to buy a product if they see user-generated content on a brand’s social media channels.

50 percent of all respondents said seeing images from customers who previously brought the product would make them more likely to buy. About 49 percent of respondents said an easy payment system like Amazon Pay would make them likelier to buy.

3. People are shopping online quite often.

Curalate asked respondents how often they shop online, and 40 percent of consumers said at least once a week. Seven percent said they shop online every day. Curalate’s takeaway for brands? There’s clearly a dedicated group of consumers fueling e-commerce. Brands should find them and engage.