PhotoIt seems like today, brands don't need customers as much as they needs followers. Facebook or social media followers that is.

An incredible 96 percent of Americans regularly use social media, and whatever those other four percent may be doing, a report from both Leo Burnett Worldwide and its marketing service division Arc Worldwide, estimate that 42 percent of consumers incorporate social media into their shopping.

This is slightly different from customers simply going to other various sites to compare products, as the report entitled SocialShop specifically covers those who chiefly use their Twitter or Google Plus accounts to shop, for example.

Researchers pinpointed exactly what customers use social media for when it comes to shopping:

  • To find cheaper alternatives.
  • To learn of the trendiest products.
  • To validate buying choices by reading ratings and reviews.
  • To obtain fun and unexpected content or deals.
  • To locate hard-to-find brands and products
  • For broadcasting the latest trends, brands, and stores.

Leo Burnett also differentiates how each shopper uses social media, as each use changes depending on what the consumer is trying to accomplish. The business consultants also name the different type of shopper among today's consumers. 

Types of shoppers

For example, there is the "dollar defaulter", one who uses social media to locate cheaper items. Or the "efficient sprinter" shopper, who uses their Facebook page to buy whatever is most popular or convenient.

The "quality devotee" shopper is mainly concerned with reviews from their social media friends,  the "strategic saver" shopper is all about paying the absolute least for their desired brands. There's also the "savvy passionista". They're the ones who are pretty much un-paid brand representatives by tweeting, posting and sharing the latest and greatest in product information.

The report also includes some stern advice for brands about knowing which social platform to use, as different sites are used for different shopping goals.

"People assign a different purpose and expectation to each social media channel they use, said Marsha Sajdeh, senior vice president and strategy director for Leo Burnett/Arch Worldwide, in a statement. "Once marketers understand how people use social to shop, they can hone their marketing strategies and cater to different shoppers' needs to drive engagement now and in the future."

In addition, researchers recognized that shoppers have shifting needs depending on what they're shopping for, thus, the report lists four categories that consumers usually buy under:

  • Burden -- The buying category when one purchases items of practical use like, washing machines, car insurance, or household furnishings.
  • Passion -- A consumer is under this category when they're  buying items for fun, enjoyment or on impulse.
  • Routine -- This category is used for shoppers when they're buying items they don't necessarily want but need, like gas, trash bags, light bulbs, etc.
  • Fun -- Self explanatory. This category is heavily associated with entertainment purchases like, eating out, going to a ball game, or buying something unhealthy yet tastey from the grocery store.

Researchers emphasize that social media and the internet on a whole has changed the way companies must first approach the customer. No longer can brands provide a blanket marketing approach to a complexed buying public. Not only has the internet made the consumer more savvy, it has also birthed a desire within the consumer to be communicated to through social media.

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