Consumers are increasingly turning to marketplaces to search for gifts, with 48% of shoppers now using online marketplaces such as Amazon as the primary source of inspiration during peak shopping.
Referrals from friends and family (46%) and Amazon reviews (28%) are also hugely influential throughout the journey to purchase.
So finds new research from Rakuten Advertising, which goes on to suggest that, while the influence of recommendations across social media has taken a backseat to marketplaces for gift inspiration in the lead up to the 2020 holiday season, social media platforms are still important destinations for holiday shopping, with Facebook the most predominant (38%) followed by Whatsapp (35%) Instagram (31%) and YouTube (27%).
Anthony Capano, Managing Director, International, at Rakuten Advertising, explains: “The success of marketplaces can be put down to accessibility, curation, community and efficiency. Consumers are using marketplaces as a way to search and locate what they need instantly and conveniently. For retailers to be successful they need to drive consumers to their own e-commerce environment, and retailers can leverage many of the marketplace aspects to do this via their publisher partners.”
Capano continues: “Publishers support the discovery phase in many ways, whether it be the curation of gift guides or reward and loyalty sites that enable consumers to search by product or category. For retailers, having their brand and products visible on publisher sites that allow consumers to easily find them will be key to driving discovery over the holidays. Publishers can work with local retailers to provide an opportunity to reach new markets beyond the high street store, as well as connect with customers online who are researching gifts before buying.”
The study is backed up by separate research from Bazaarvoice, which similarly finds that Amazon will continue be a vital resource for consumers this winter season, with almost two-thirds (57%) of UK consumers using it for gift inspiration and three quarters (74%) planning to buy from the marketplace.
Amazon does, however, have competition amongst younger consumers from social media, with Instagram (46%) just as influential for gift ideas and inspiration for Gen Z (18-24 year olds). Overall, Facebook (21%) remains the most influential social media platform when it comes to gift buying, followed by Instagram (19%) and Pinterest (11%).
Suzin Wold, SVP Marketing, Bazaarvoice, explains: “Amazon has become even more prominent during the pandemic as more have people turned to online shopping. Its scale gives it an almost unbeatable advantage, but where brands and retailers can win is by delivering a fantastic consumer experience and different value. Younger generations identify with brands more personally and emotionally than older generations, and use social media at every stage of their purchase life cycle. Listening and engaging with consumers across social platforms in the early stages of product discovery through storytelling, visuals and authentic influencers will create engagement. Social media should be used to create a more unique shopping experience for brands and retailers to set themselves apart from Amazon.”
Rakuten’s Capano adds: “We expect the majority of online purchases to take place on mobile this holiday season, and social media remains an important place for brands to reach consumers. Investing in low-risk upper funnel strategies, with platforms that align with they own brand values, is an effective way for brands to reach and engage consumers with relevant and timely ads.”
The consumer interest in marketplace selling hasn’t be wasted on tech investors, with marketplace SaaS platform Mirakl raising $300 million in VC funding, bringing total capital raised to $400 million and placing the company’s valuation over $1.5 billion.
After largely establishing the enterprise marketplace SaaS sector, Mirakl says it is now entering a new phase of "hypergrowth" to help B2B and B2C organisations seize the platform opportunity and lead in this new digital economy.
Mirakl already counts 11 of the top 40 North American retailers and a growing bench of leading B2B organisations as customers globally. In the first half of 2020, Mirakl onboarded 25 new customers and launched 18 new marketplaces. During the first six months of 2020, Mirakl-powered Marketplaces generated some $1.2 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) and demonstrating the agility and scalability of the marketplace model even in the face of global economic disruptions.
“Mirakl has built an entirely new category, ushering in a platform revolution that is only just beginning,” said Adrien Nussenbaum, US CEO and cofounder of Mirakl. “When we founded Mirakl, we envisioned a future where every organisation would be able to capture the power of the platform business model. Now, we’re proud to count more than 300 of the world’s most forward-thinking organisations."