Social & Community Network sites have little impact influencing Online Retail Sales.

JupiterResearch has found that despite the growth of social networks and online communities, they have little effect on influencing online retail sales. Outlined in a new report, “US Retail Consumer Survey, 2007,” social and community sites are only driving about 12 percent of online shoppers to buy more than planned.

The effectiveness of social and community sites, like MySpace, in driving retail sales is still emerging. Because 53 percent of online shoppers go directly to the retailer website while they are shopping, in contrast to the only three percent utilizing blogs, it’s clear online shoppers continue to seek out direct access to locations where they can purchase a product or the source of that product when researching and purchasing both online and off-line.

“From a branding and advertising perspective, social and community sites are garnering a great deal of influence online,” explained Patti Freeman Evans, Senior Analyst with JupiterResearch. “But when researching a product online, shoppers are looking for fundamental information, not entertainment or social interaction. In the end, the consumer is still interested in convenience and efficiency and social and community sites are just not that efficient.”

According to the report, social and community sites help reaffirm purchase decisions as 29 percent of online shoppers say they make better decisions after using these sites. Yet retailer must also manage their expectations with regard to incremental sales potential. In this increasingly competitive retail market, those that use an affiliate model will maximize opportunity with appropriate social and community sites.

“There is a propensity to gravitate toward what is considered to be the latest and greatest method of getting noticed without knowing for certain that this particular tactic will work,” said David Schatsky, President of JupiterResearch. “Retailers would be better served to take a step back and evaluate how effective tactics really are – and with whom – to make a stronger impact with the right audiences rather than succumbing to trends.”

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