Social Buttons Influence Purchasing Decisions

Allison Howen
by Allison Howen 02 Mar, 2012

Online retailers, take note: We all know that certain aspects of Web design - like call-to-action buttons, product imagery and content placement - can influence purchasing decisions. But a new study also suggests that social media icons are subconsciously influencing buying habits as well.

The joint study from the University of Miami School of Business Administration, Empirica Research and StyleCaster Media Group reveals that consumers who viewed products that they would be proud to show off - such as sportswear or fragrances - were 25 percent more likely to purchase a product that had a social icon next to it, compared to consumers who saw the same product without the icon.

However, consumers who saw a social media icon near a product that might embarrass them - such as a weight-loss product or acne medication - were 25 percent less likely to buy that product compared to those who saw the same product without the icon.

Additionally, the icon impact on purchasing decisions emerged regardless of whether or not people in the study remembered seeing the social media buttons. This means that these icons are influencing people's unconscious processes and can subconsciously influence consumers' behavior and decisions.

"Our study finds that the mere presence of social media icons on a Web page where we shop appears to cause us to feel as if our purchases are being watched by our social network, and we adjust our buying decisions accordingly," says Claudia Townsend, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Miami School of Business Administration, who conducted the research with Empirica's David Neal. "Marketers should be aware that the placement of these symbols in their Web design strategies could have a major impact on buying behavior."