Retailers, Brands Have Most Social Media Followers

NEW YORK –- Retailers and brands have the most followed or “liked” pages on social media, even more than top celebrities, according to a new study from WSL/Strategic Retail, a New York City-based firm that analyzes shopper behavior and retail trends.

Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of users who “fan” social media pages, are choosing to follow brands and retailers -- beating out celebrities and television shows, which are followed by just over half of users, the company’s “From Buzz to Buy 3.0” trend report showed. This third annual survey measures how the power of social media and online information are impacting buying decisions.

“We may think everyone is following the Kardashians on Facebook, but in fact, Walmart is the greater social media ‘celebrity’ with more than double the number of followers as the Kardashian family’s most popular member Kim,” said Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL/Strategic Retail. “That said, awareness doesn’t necessarily translate into sales – yet. Today, only 26 percent of all users go to their social networks for information about something they want to buy. However, that number jumps to 40 percent among Millennial shoppers, a strong indication that social media’s influence on buying decisions will continue to grow.”

This trend is indicative of consumers’ increased desire for shopping information. The new shopping mantra is “information is power,” noted Candace Corlett, president of WSL/Strategic Retail.

“People are leveraging the abundance of technology to learn everything they want to know about products anywhere they want – be it a quick price comparison on their iPad while at the mall or in-store, or visiting Pinterest for decorating tips,” she said. “The art and science of digital marketing has become essential for engaging consumers and targeting the right message to the right shopper at the right time.”

Additional findings of the report include:

  • Not so social: While the amount of time Americans spend online continues to increase (up three hours per week over 2011), social media usage has declined for the first time – down 10 percent in 2012 vs. the previous year. Generation X, Baby Boomers and seniors are leading the change, while usage by Millennials remains consistent.
  • Watch Millennials to see the future of shopping: Millennials showed the highest increase of time spent online – a full 25 hours per week (up five hours per week over 2011). In addition to relying heavily on their social networks for information about products they want to buy (40 percent), they are also the leaders in utilizing mobile phones to help them shop (63 percent) – resulting in a 15 point margin over Gen X shoppers.
  • Shopping gets mobile: With the rise of portable devices, shoppers are using their smartphones (42 percent) and tablets/e-Readers (16 percent) to access product information and engage their friends in buying decisions while in-store. Mobile phones and tablets each accounted for 10 percent of online purchases made in the past three months. Shopping apps further increase mobile shopping activity, now ranking No. 4 among the most downloaded apps following games, social media and music.

The WSL/Strategic Retail “From Buzz to Buy 3.0” study was conducted Oct. 4-12, and included 1,796 shoppers recruited from an online panel of shoppers aged 16 and older. All participants are active Internet users, having performed at least one online shopping or social networking activity within the past month.

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