You are not alone: In the digital era defined by sites like Facebook, Foursquare and Groupon, a new breed of consumers has emerged: social shoppers, people increasingly relying on the wisdom of the digital crowd to help them make their purchasing decisions.
In turn, it seems brand marketers' traditional advertising ploys are losing some influence with the public. According to a study by advertising agency Leo Burnett, 47% of Americans use social media in some capacity to shop.
And 85% of consumers around the world believe social networks will shorten their shopping time, a recent IBM study revealed. "They trust that the opinion of family and friends, and getting the public's opinion, will save them time,"Jill Puleri, global retail leader for IBM global business services, told DailyFinance.
A study by Leo Burnett breaks down social shoppers into four types, based on their habits:
The Efficiency-Sprint Shopper
These practical-minded shoppers are all about using social media to help them zero in rapidly on consumer-generated information to make sensible purchases. When researching a product on the Web, their thinking would be along the lines of, "I will just look at the reviews with most stars and buy the most popular one to save time," said Nick Jones, executive vice president of the retail practice of Arc Worldwide, a division of Leo Burnett. "It fills the efficiency need."
This type of shopper would gravitate toward review sites like Yelp.com and Amazon.com to gather up peer ratings. "Instead of relying on an advertiser to tell them what's a good product or brand, [they rely on] what a group of consumers thinks," Jones told DailyFinance.
The Peer-Oriented Shopper
These shoppers rely heavily on recommendations and tips from friends. "They're looking for validation and information from their peers," whose advice on a product or service trumps the sales pitches of manufacturers or retailers, Jones says. Indeed, 97% of the shoppers surveyed who fall into this category said they trust their friends more than other sources.
Facebook, the top digital social platform for expressing one's opinions, is the natural habitat of the peer-oriented shopper.
The In-the-Know Shopper
Members of this subset of the peer-oriented shopper cultivate their insider status to get "a sort of lifestyle validation" from their contemporaries by being aware of the latest trends bubbling up in the social-network sphere, Jones says.
Their purchases tend to be more "wants" based than "needs" based.
They're the kind of shopper who would tweet something like, "I talked about the Versace [line] at H&M weeks before it happened!" Jones said, "because it makes them look like they're in-the-know."
Foursquare, the location-based social platform, is another tool of the in-the-know shopper. With Foursquare, shoppers can "check in" to locations, including stores, and earn shopping incentives from retailers. In-the-know shoppers tend to broadcast their shopping whereabouts to friends, and spread the news about store offers, Jones says.
The Impulse-Buying Shopper
These social shoppers fear losing out on that surprise offer or great discount -- a type of shopping inclination that lends them to flock to Groupon, LivingSocial and YouSwoop.com, daily deal sites that are in the business of "discovery offers," Jones said. These shoppers want to "keep up to date and never miss out."