TOKYO: Social media is changing more than the way people communicate across the Asia Pacific region – it has become a key influential resource for making purchases, according to a new study.

That's one of the conclusions of Revolutionising Asia: 3 key trends in social media, a paper presented at the recent ESOMAR Asia Pacific regional conference; the other two trends centre around the pressures of social content curation and growing privacy concerns.

Research undertaken with 3,500 respondents aged 15 to 50-years-old indicated that social media ranked above store visits and TV advertising as a source of information for recent purchases. Only friends and family and web searches ranked higher.

The authors – Bonnae Ogunlade (Regional Associate Director, Carat Asia Pacific, Singapore), Michael Fegan (Country Manager, SSI, Japan), Jennifer Serrano (Regional Knowledge Manager, SSI, Singapore) and Robert Fry (Managing Director, Voxpopme, Singapore) – suggested that brands need to consider "working with key influencers who can build trust to help turn their social presence into actual direct social commerce, where transactions are made on social platforms".

Thailand stands out as the APAC country most engaged in social commerce, with 40% of social media users there having bought products or services via a social platform. Japan is at the other end of the scale, with less than 10% of social media users there buying this way.

This response is being driven by convenience and cheaper prices when buying in social media.

"In order for brands to persuade consumers to engage with social commerce," the authors said, "they need to offer differentiated and custom promotions that will appeal to their target audience within each social media platform."

They also need to be selective – and ideally exclusive – with their payment partners "as this is shown to be a deal breaker across different markets".

In terms of the things that people buy in social media, clothes and accessories appeared to be the most popular products across all markets. Skincare items were also found to be profitable, particularly on social networking sites in Thailand.

Data sourced from ESOMAR