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12/9/2009
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Social Media Influencing Holiday Purchases

A comScore survey found that 28% of online shoppers were influenced by info on Facebook or Twitter in making holiday purchases.

Social media is beginning to have a strong influence on purchases made by online shoppers, according to the latest comScore poll on online holiday spending.

The online measuring firm found that 28% of the responding online shoppers in its latest poll said social media influenced their shopping decisions. comScore said that holiday spending hit $16 billion for the first 36 days of the November-December shopping season. The figure represented a 3% gain over the similar period in 2008.

"Social media really appears to be emerging as an important marketing channel this holiday season," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni in a statement. "Its emergence is being driven by increased consumer adoption of these technologies and the exponential growth in digital world-of-mouth that is occurring over this medium."

For the week ending Dec. 6, online shopping sales reached $4.6 billion -- more than any individual spending week in 2008. Purchases kicked off on Cyber Monday with sales of $887 million, but petered out over the weekend when negative year-over-year growth rates were recorded. The jury is still out on this year's online holiday sales, because the first days of the period were marked by special discounts and promotions, which may have hyped sales.

In its latest poll, comScore found that consumer-generated product reviews were the most cited social media purchase influence in the period with 13% of the poll respondents citing that category. Another 11% said they were influenced by an expert product review; followed by a Facebook fan page, 7%; a Facebook friend's recommendation, 6%; company recommendations on Twitter, 5%; and "tweets" from a friend, 3%.

"Having a social media marketing strategy makes sense for retailers in this environment because it's cost-effective and shows an effort to get closer to one's customers," Fulgoni said. "I think we are getting our first real glimpse at the impact social media will play on commerce as we enter the next decade."

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