New study finds Facebook most likely to inspire a purchase decision.

Nearly half of US social network users make purchases that begin on social sites, a new study reports, a finding that underscores the increasingly free-form path to purchase. According to an August 2017 survey by visual commerce platform ViSenze, nearly one-third of social users make a purchase that begins on a social site about once a month.

Almost 15% of respondents said they make such purchases more frequently. The survey is the latest to highlight social’s role in consumers’ purchasing decisions.

Social platforms have had trouble living up to hopes that they would be strong drivers of direct sales, but a growing body of evidence makes clear that social touchpoints contribute along the path to purchase.

ClickZ, in partnership with Catalyst, polled US digital buyers in August 2017 about the sources that influenced their purchase decisions. According to the survey, social media influenced roughly one-quarter to one-third of respondents’ purchase decisions on items ranging from furniture to baby care.

Though social influence fell far short of other options, such as product reviews, the levels were not insignificant. The ViSenze survey asked about purchases that “begin” on social platforms—purchases that could be considered more akin to the original vision of true social commerce. Asked which social platforms were most likely to inspire a purchase decision, respondents scored Facebook considerably higher (31.8%) than Pinterest (16.4%) or Instagram (12.5%). Snapchat, the other option listed, registered below 2%.

A recent PwC survey on holiday shopping, which broke down results by age, found somewhat parallel results. In that survey, US internet users ages 22 and older were most likely to cite Facebook as influencing their holiday shopping. But younger shoppers—those ages 13 to 21—cited Instagram as having the most influence. And among these young shoppers, roughly one-third said Snapchat influenced their shopping.

There is no such thing as a ‘silver bullet’ in marketing. But, social media platforms not only create the path to the sale, as evidence in the CNA|SOPHIS study in the article below, in many instances, they drive the sale. Social media is coming of age. Now that there is substantial outside evidence, the future looks bright for this new media dimension as both an eCommerce and brick & mortar solution for traffic, sales and an increased ROI.