Social commerce may not look like many of us thought it would look like by now (i.e., an overwhelming amount of direct sales on the networks themselves), but Curalate's 2017 consumer survey (no download needed when clicking through) indicates 76 percent of consumers have purchased products they discovered on social media.
In other words, people (and the study indicates it's not just younger generations) are seeing a product in their social feeds and buying later online (see more in the infographic below). While immediate sales can be attributed to social if tracking is in place (e.g., source-rich URLs tied to conversion events in an analytics system), attribution becomes much more difficult when someone gains awareness via social media but visits a site directly later or if they search for the site, search may get the credit. The report's authors poignantly write:
"For marketers who are dogmatic about direct-response, today's attribution models will likely leave them uncomfortable with social's contributions. However, for marketers who take a more holistic view of the customer journey and operate with a longer timespan, social is a valuable channel to not only drive awareness, but sales as well."
Without a content management or ecommerce system building customer profiles from first- and third-party data, there are currently only manual ways of tracking sales from social if the purchase happens later such as the old fashioned way of asking how a person heard of the company or setting time parameters around say a 24-hour period of when a product is promoted on social. Further, perhaps if a retailer wants to more accurately attribute social as a source of sales, it can encourage followers to act now with some sort of incentive or scarcity tactic to follow the link and buy in that moment.
When using advertising on Facebook, however, retailers can add a targeting pixel to, "see how your customers are moving between devices before they convert." For example, a person sees the ad for a product on their phone but later converts on desktop or even stays on the same device, retailers are better able to assign the sale to the Facebook ad.
All that said, merchants' social posts are selling products as long as they are relevant to the consumer and use compelling creative (as indicated in the infographic below).