Shopping online for holiday gifts is much easier than shopping in stores, as long as you know what you are looking for. But what happens when you don’t know exactly what you want to give as a gift? Social media and peer influence is changing the way consumers discover and shop for gifts online, and there will be more evidence of this game-changing way we buy gifts this upcoming holiday season. So what role does e-commerce play with social gift shopping? We like to think of social gifting as the link between the social activity of gifting and discovering the perfect gift for friends and the increased influence of social media. Whether it’s through social networks or other digital channels, gifting individually or getting a group of friends to contribute, social gifting is based on finding personalized gifts online in the most convenient and instantaneous way possible, and this trend isn’t slowly down anytime soon.

In a survey by Crowdtap.com, 1,400 consumers were asked to determine the key influences on their holiday purchase decisions. Nearly 65% of shoppers used social media to find “the perfect gift” and almost 45% shoppers who discovered holiday deals and promos did so with the help of their friends’ online recommendations. The top social media platforms these shoppers were influenced by to purchase a gift included: Facebook (with a 39.3% lead), followed by Pinterest (19.7%), Twitter (14.4%), and then blogs and Instagram (9.8%).

Not only are consumers taking peer recommendations through social media more seriously, but they are also sharing more content related to holiday deals and promos. These types of deals and promos being shared include digital coupons, links to holiday contests/giveaways, and information about big holiday sales. But the list doesn’t stop there. Consumers are also sharing product reviews, photos from shopping trips, and personal holiday wish lists on social media.
Here are the exact percentages for each type of content consumers said they were mostly likely to share on Facebook during the holidays:

  • 67.2% – Digital coupon

  • 63.4% – Link to contest, sweepstakes or giveaway

  • 59.2% – Info about a big holiday sale

  • 44.7% – Review or recommendation

  • 41.6% – Photo of shopping trip

  • 33.1% – Personal holiday shopping list

These online recommendations on social media from family or friends even beat out Amazon product reviews when it came to the type of recommendations shoppers stated influenced them most for a holiday purchase.

So how are online retailers responding to this social shopping trend? We’ve all heard of Facebook gifts (who actually just announced a refocus on digital offers and gift cards) playing a big role in the popularity of social commerce, but there are many other social networks that retailers are signing onto in order to appeal to the younger generation of shoppers. These image-heavy social networks such as Snapchat, Vine, Tumblr, and Instagram, are influencing shoppers to make purchases based on image recommendations, whether it’s from friends or brands. Amazon recently picked up on the trend in August, with the launch of “Amazon Collections”, allowing consumers to see what others are liking, wishlisting and buying. eBay also jumped on the social commerce bandwagon with the recent purchase of Svpply, a retail bookmarking and recommendation site. These moves by the largest online retailers shows us how different it will be this holiday season when we start searching for gift ideas and creating gift lists.

Most of us are already gift shopping online, so with increased options for discovering product and gift recommendations, whether it’s through social media or gift suggestion platforms, we can save both time and money by finding the best gifts online through our own friends’ personal recommendations.