Social_Mobile_Sales_Growth_body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

As a percentage of total sales for businesses, purchases made through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media platforms are relatively small. However, those numbers are increasing at an eye-opening rate. For 2013, sales made through social media sites surged 26 percent to $3.3 billion, according to AddShoppers BI Intelligence. Among the features driving consumers to make their purchases this way: the launch of “Buy Now” buttons that make it easy for customers to shop without leaving their favorite social media platform.

Top consumer brand Unilever recently told Ad Age that social media buzz absolutely translates into sales. According to their research, one in 1,000 TV commercial impressions resulted in a sale, while four in 1,000 social media impressions led to a purchase. When social media advertising was targeted, that conversion rate grew to 40 in 1,000.

Social media sales aren’t exclusive to big brands. Small businesses can leverage social media effectively to boost their bottom line. Critical steps include understanding the impact social media has on in-store traffic, making use of Facebook’s established and emerging sales tools, and getting prepared to make mobile part of your marketing mix.

Social media creates in-store traffic: Research firm Business Insider Intelligence reports that social media outperforms all other online channels, generating the biggest increases in retail traffic, to both online stores and brick and mortar locations.  E-commerce referrals attributable to social media grew 200 percent between 2014 and 2015. This is definitive proof that social media has a crucial role to play in the sales process.

Social_Mobile_Sales_Growth_PQ.jpgFacebook leads in social sales: Facebook is currently responsible for more than two-thirds of all social media sales and half of e-commerce referrals. This may be in part attributable to the older, more affluent nature of Facebook’s user base being highly responsive to display ads and promoted posts. Facebook recently announced, and began testing, a shopping section for mobile users, which is expected to increase the number of younger consumers making purchases on the platform. It’s important to note that Facebook also owns Instagram, which is currently in the process of developing its own sales tools.

Mobile presents a growth opportunity:

The majority of sales made through social media still occur on desktop computers. Mobile device purchases remain relatively miniscule due to several obstacles, most especially the checkout experience, which can be difficult to navigate on the small screen of a smartphone. However, research firm Juniper recently stated in a report that fast growth in mobile sales rates is coming. They project that U.S. mobile sales will reach $707 billion by 2018, up from $182 billion today. Mobile shoppers also demonstrate a strong preference for making their purchases via a mobile website, rather than through an app.

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