How Social Sharing Affects Online Shopping . / Credit: Social sharing image via Sociable Labs

Social sharing has become a mainstream activity, a new study says. Almost two-thirds of all online shoppers have read product-related comments from friends on Facebook. And this is putting a smile on merchants' faces — three-quarters of those shoppers have clicked through to visit the product page on the retailer’s site.

Best of all, social sharing also drives conversions, according to a study of more than 1,000 consumers that looked into the minds of online shoppers to reveal how they view social sharing and how it fits into their shopping and purchase decision-making process.  More than half of shoppers who clicked through to the retailer's site purchased the product that was shared, the study found.

Conducted by Sociable Labs, a provider of social commerce solutions, the study involved more than 1,000 online shoppers who were also Facebook users.

[Facebook Users Judge Friends by Photos, Not Profile]

The study found that shoppers find social sharing to be equivalent to Google search in terms of helpfulness in looking for a product to buy, with 48 percent of shoppers saying social sharing is “extremely helpful” or “very helpful” when shopping for a product. The primary benefit shoppers experience with social sharing is product discovery (“it helps me find a product I might want to buy”).

Another key finding was that “social proofing” – the use of social sharing content to show friend activity directly on an e-commerce site – significantly increases shopper confidence in a retailer’s e-commerce site. A third of shoppers said they are more likely to stay and shop on retailer sites that show people who have shopped on that site.

That number increased to 62 percent if some of those people are their friends. In addition, 57 percent of shoppers said they were more likely to make a purchase from sites that show friends who have purchased there before.

"This study got into the minds of consumers to find out how friend-to-friend sharing influences the way they shop and buy online," said Darby Williams, marketing vice president at Sociable Labs. "We found that consumers discover what products to buy through social sharing, and then act on that information 75 percent of the time. Retailers have the ability to trigger this kind of sharing from their e-commerce sites, driving both significant referral visits and conversion uplift if they fully leverage it. Now with high-velocity 'frictionless sharing,' social sharing can become one of the top drivers of both for almost any online retailer."

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.