Getting Customers to Buy Using Social

Brands and businesses are eager to find new ways to make social the point of purchase. But consumers aren't quite as gung-ho. Here's why.

Brands and businesses are eager to find new ways to make social the point of purchase. But consumers aren’t quite as gung-ho. Why? offers one possibility: “Now that anyone can place an order using nothing more than a string of numbers read over the phone or entered on a website form, security for all payments is weaker and more susceptible to abuse than ever before.” And this isn’t a hypothetical claim.

If consumers are hesitant to try new things, it’s because they’ve already seen how safe their personal information is in the hands of major players like Target and Home Depot–that is to say, not very.

And while these breaches haven’t stopped consumers from continuing to shop online, or even using mobile payment options in-store, it’s made them more cautious.

Business and consumer desires are at odds

But security fears aren’t the only reason adoption of mobile commerce has been slow. Retail Minded reports: “Nearly 70 percent of consumers say they trust mobile payments–however, they have not yet seen a reason to use them.” They may be swayed by social advertising, but ultimately make purchases at retailers’ websites, at competing marketplaces like Amazon, or in-store.

This works well for consumers, but retailers and other businesses would understandably benefit from blocking interruptions–like price research–that lead consumers away from an immediate purchase. From this perspective, social buying is the perfect thing–if brands could just entice consumers to click “buy now.”

This is why Twitter dove into social selling, to “make it as easy as possible for businesses to connect directly with, and sell to, customers on Twitter. With Buy Now, businesses can drive more conversions and remove much of the friction in the mobile purchasing process.”

Sounds great, but the problem of consumer interest remains.

Merchants must take up the charge

Laurence Cooke, CEO of Canadian-based nanoPay, thinks consumers have heard enough from payments companies, so it will take another voice to convince them: “It’s absolutely going to be the merchants. There is no reason for the payments companies to push anything else on anyone.”

What payments companies probably should do, then, is incentivize merchants so that they can in turn incentivize consumers. And everyone needs to get a little more creative to give consumers something worth using.

Venmo is a prime example of a company offering something new–the ability to split transactions among friends. From easily sending your share of split utilities to your roommate, to asking for reimbursements for picking up last night’s drinking tab, Venmo gives users a new way to  share expenses without ever needing to make change.

There’s a big difference between peer-to-peer payments and business/retail payments, but the point is clear: Give consumers something they’re not already getting and they’ll give it a try. This was part of what made the Starbucks payment app such a success–novelty.

But retailers looking to copy the coffee chain–and they are–shouldn’t expect the same results, according to MobilePaymentsToday: “Starbucks is a mobile triumph for three reasons: It has a great loyalty program; it sells an addictive product in caffeine; and the same customers visit its stores almost every day. What big-box retailer can make that claim?”

What retailers and other businesses should take to heart is the uniqueness of Starbucks’ app at the time it hit, and what it offered consumers–free coffee just for purchasing through the app, i.e., a reason to use it.

And what of the payments platform in the background?

As for the payments platforms themselves, businesses must tread carefully. The Target and Home Depot breaches cost each company dearly, although they’re still standing. As payments technology advances and e-commerce and mcommerce grow in popularity, fraudsters are busily working on how they’ll take advantage of any weaknesses they can exploit. You don’t want it happening on your brand’s watch.

Be sure that your e-commerce platform is secure, and that you’re using SSL (secure sockets layer) security if your site is self-hosted or hosted by a web developer. Also be sure your site is PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant. Why? “The security benefits associated with maintaining PCI compliance are vital to the long-term success of all merchants who process card payments.” It’s everyone’s job to ensure mobile shopping is safe.

Which brings us back to trust again. Due recommends fortifying it for your brand through “social proof and testimonials. Prompt customer service can also help you cultivate trust among your customers and potential customers.”

Consumers should never have reason to worry about the power behind your payments, whether buying on social or anywhere else. Choose the right partner and they won’t. They’ll simply associate your brand with fast, easy, secure shopping–as it should be.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

@MaryCLong Mary C. Long is Chief Ghost at Digital Media Ghost. She writes about everything online and is published widely, with a focus on privacy concerns, specifically social sabotage.