How Social Media Has an Impact on the Path to Purchase

As marketers, we are well versed in the traditional purchase funnel. However, over the years, the consumer decision making process has shifted to be more of a circular journey, as illustrated by the McKinsey Loop. As social media has become more mainstream and started being incorporated into the marketing mix, it is important to understand how it impacts that path to purchase. The role of social media for B2B and for B2C buyers is very different, for the purposes of this blog post, we will focus on B2C.

Mckenzie Loop

Awareness & Initial-Consideration

Social media can play a role in each phase of the path to purchase. I think the most often used role of social in the journey is during the awareness and consideration phase. Through a single post and supporting media budget, marketers can reach millions, or a very niche demographic of their choosing. One of the key benefits of social media is the hyper-targeting capabilities that you are unable to get through a lot of the other traditional marketing methods. According to research done by Social Media Link, retail websites and Facebook tied for the most popular destination to discover new products. Almost all channels can be used throughout this phase, but other top social channels for discovery include YouTube, Blogs and Pinterest.


After consumers have their initial group of brands/products they have considered, they go in to the research and evaluation phase. According to GlobalWebIndex, 1 out of 3 people use social networks to research products. As to be expected, most of these people are between the ages of 16-44 years old. At this point, consumers are looking for more detailed information about the product. Social strategies could include talking about why this product stands out amongst competitors, reviews from consumers/influencers, and key product benefits. Most of the time these social posts link to longer form content like blog posts or retail sites with more information. Retail and brand websites still remain the top research source, but Facebook, YouTube, Blogs and Pinterest are not far behind are not far behind.



In my opinion, the purchase phase is where social channels have the biggest room for growth. Over the past year or so, channels and tools have made large strides to better connect social with online and offline sales. However, making purchases through social channels themselves has seen slow adoption despite the fact that almost all channels have a ‘buy’ ad unit. According to GlobalWebIndex, only 10-20% are interested in using social ‘buy’ buttons. If you are going to test buy buttons, most consumers prefer to purchase through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, according to research done by Aimia. When deciding where to direct people to purchase, the first thing to consider is ‘what is the best user experience for the buyer.’ If that experience is through your website, I would direct them there. If possible, set up Facebook’s conversion tracking pixel on your website to measure the results.

Post Purchase & Loyalty

Finally, social media can play a critical role in the post-purchase and loyalty phase. Strategies during this phase should help users feel good about their purchase, give them information and tips to getting the most out of their product, being there for any support issues and giving them easy ways to share. Using the call-to-action to ‘Share’ on any channel, and programs that encourage fans to do so with content they create can be invaluable to the brand. According to Social Media Link, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are the top social sites where people share brand/product purchases.


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