Nearly half of consumers will be ‘social shoppers’ by 2021 – Barclays

23 May 2012

Sales from social commerce, driven by the influence of social media, are expected to more than double within the next five years, according to research from Barclays.

Research conducted by Barclays in the UK has found that the next generation of ‘social shopper’ could be a force to be reckoned with by 2021.

In this not-so-terribly-distant future, 41pc of the consumer population is expected to be influenced by or use social media to make a purchase. The figure is higher among 25 to 34-year-olds, expected to reach 73pc – which is unsurprising as 45pc of this group are already engaging in what Barclays have called ‘s-commerce’.

Recommendations and social influence

It’s estimated that around 70pc of online shoppers are also active social networkers, while websites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have blurred the boundaries between retail channels. However, as of yet, social media is not a direct sales platform. It’s more of a referral channel where consumer sentiment can be gauged and influence purchasers. While people are generally on social networks to socialise, consumers on these sites are still quite receptive to new ideas, suggestions and recommendations, and therein lies an opportunity for retailers.

“When someone you know and trust makes a recommendation, it’s extremely powerful, and we’ve seen that the social shopper isn’t afraid to express online how much they want, love or dislike a product or service,” said Richard Lowe, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays. “This, in turn, creates a feedback loop on a product or brand. As more people post reviews, more people read them and give their own feedback, which is picked up by a new group of consumers. Retailers should be exploring ways to tap into these communities in order to create more personalised shopping experiences.”

This influential nature of social media is expected to translate into stg£3.3bn of sales in the next five years – more than double the current figure of stg£1.4bn – while direct sales are expected to rise from stg£210m to stg£300m. Fashion, footwear, music, film and grocery retailers are expected to see the most significant gains.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.