Early one morning, about one year ago, I got to work ready for my daily office routine. I turned on my computer and answered a couple of emails.
Looking through all the letters I’d received, there was one that caught my eye. It was from a gentleman named Thomas Friedrich. Mr. Friedrich was seeking free help with five online stores he had created for a period of 12 months. A little out of the blue, right?
I had mixed feelings about the request, but I decided to find out what the trick was.
The point is…
I found this very interesting because every day, going through e-mails, forums, and Facebook groups, I see that many merchants are questioning the advantages of social tools on their sites. At the same time, lots of people struggle to find the most effective tools to achieve outstanding results.
I loved Mr. Friedrich’s idea, and since I hadn’t seen someone who had done a detailed analysis backed up by reliable data, I thought, “why don’t we do it?”
And it begins
And so we did it. We integrated our SocialShopWave app into Mr. Friedrich’s four online gift shops created for the experiment, each equipped with a different set of social commerce features.
250 student volunteers were divided into five groups, each with access to only one version of the online store. Equipped with an identical amount of virtual money, the students were instructed to choose and purchase a gift for a friend. After completing the shopping task, the students were asked to rate the gift shop, stating how likely they would be to purchase products in this shop in the future.
- Gift shop 1: without any social commerce feature
- Gift shop 2: social reviews
- Gift shop 3: social sharing buttons
- Gift shop 4: wish lists
- Gift shop 5: social reviews, social sharing buttons, wish lists, and the community feature
Do social tools really help to sell more?
When all the students had finished shopping and rating the web sites. The system calculated some interesting results.
It was found that social tools do indeed influence buyers’ behavior.
The first store, which wasn’t equipped with any features, had the lowest effects on students’ activity.
Gift Shop 4, that provided wish lists, had a significantly higher influence on buying behavior when compared to Gift Shop 1, with the conversion rate increased by 9.4 %!
The higher influence seemed to be generated through higher levels of social influence or social proof that the students perceived on these shops. Interestingly, our results did not show any significant differences in the effects between these three gift shops (#2, #3 and #4), which provided exactly one social commerce feature.
Gift Shop 5, which provided social reviews, social sharing buttons, wish lists, and the community feature had the highest influence on the buying behavior, 15.2% higher compared to the effects of Gift Shop 1!
Clearly, the social commerce features had made a difference.
“These examples show only one thing: you should know how customers make a decision and why the tools mentioned above affect your sales. Fortunately, there are many tools to implement on the market proven by scientific research and real marketing practices.”
Thomas Friedrich, research associate at Bamberg University
Overall, the results of this experiment show that social commerce features can indeed have a significant influence on consumers’ buying behavior. Many studies conducted in the last couple of years have confirmed that people read reviews and use them to decide whether or not to purchase a product. Wishlists, on the other hand, remind customers of a product they like but just not ready to purchase yet, which brings them back to the store later. Moreover, the results demonstrated that these effects can be strengthened when social commerce features are used in combination.