Just one in ten British consumers (9%) say that social media plays a role in their purchasing habits, according to new research that questions the efficacy of social media and smartphone campaigns.

Based on responses from 4,800 adults in the UK, media agency UM also found that more than half (54%) still use a home computer or laptop when carrying out online research or looking for inspiration before making a purchase, while only 38% use their smartphone.

Social media has the most influence when consumers buy a new kitchen or bathroom (15%), or beauty products (11%), but only 6% of DIY/garden centre shoppers and 7% of fashion/apparel shoppers say that social networks play a role in their purchase.

The findings, which form part of UM’s wider Retail Buying Study 2018, led the researchers to suggest that retailers who focus their marketing budgets on social media and smartphone campaigns might be on the “wrong track”.

“Brands need to look at turning social platforms from a place of inspiration into something that prompts an actual purchase,” said Glen Parker, UM’s chief insight officer for EMEA.

“Instagram, for example, is great at building engagement but sometimes integrating a purchase mechanic on the platform itself can feel incongruous,” he added.

Instead, Parker recommended that retailers integrate social content into their purchase channels – for example, by having social feedback in-store or on their websites via reviews, user photos and influencer content.

“Developing an Instagram campaign for your brand just because you think ‘that’s where all the millennials are’ is unlikely to bear fruit,” he said.

“Similarly, websites need to be mobile-ready but ‘smartphone first’ may not always be the right way to approach digital marketing – particularly for fashion and grocery brands. Laptops and PCs are still the main device people use for research and inspiration, probably while at home or at work rather than on the go.”

However, the UM research also unearthed some useful information about those consumers who do get their inspiration from social media, especially how different platforms are used for different product categories.

For example, around a third of these consumers use Facebook (34%) and YouTube (31%) for inspiration about beauty products, while clothing shoppers do their research on Facebook (25%) and Instagram (21%).

Half of them (49%) say they get inspiration from Facebook for groceries, while 39% of those looking to buy a new kitchen or bathroom check out Pinterest.

“Retailers need to understand the omnichannel nature of the purchase journey and how their particular category fits in,” said Parker.

“If you understand how, when and where shoppers look for inspiration, you can develop the right approach to ensure they seek out your products ahead of the competition.”

Sourced from UM; additional content by WARC staff