In this post, GlobalWebIndex's Senior Trends Analyst, Katie Young discusses why mobile and social will be more important than ever for retailers this festive season.
It’s that time of year again. Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas are just around the corner and brands and retailers are rapidly building momentum around the most lucrative shopping days. We’re already seen e-commerce giant Alibaba record a staggering $25bn in sales on Singles’ Day and Amazon is hoping for big success with 10 days of Black Friday deals. But this year, there are two areas that will be more important than ever for retailers: mobile and social.
Online shopping is now mobile-first
Mobile devices are set to drive this year’s shopping frenzy. Our latest wave of research shows that online shopping is now a mobile-first activity, with more people buying on their mobiles than their computers. M-commerce has made the most headway among 16-34s (60% buy on their mobiles) and across Asia, but even among 55-64-year-olds it’s over a quarter who are doing so.
It’s now vital for retailers and marketers to mobile-optimise and have a mobile-first strategy. Digital consumers are engaging with brands on their mobiles at all stages of the purchase journey. Even in the research phase, there are about two-thirds who are searching for products to buy on these devices. Whether on their daily commute, or at home in front of the TV, smartphone users are commonly in ‘browsing’ mode when on these devices. These are the devices where consumers may initially engage with brands and so the importance of creating micro-conversions on mobile-friendly sites should not be overlooked – be that a video view or a blog visit. The focus for mobile should be on core capabilities that help those browsing (e.g. easy search functionality and clear product categories).
Social is a key brand-consumer touchpoint
The rise of m-commerce itself paves the way for social commerce. The worlds of mobile and social are inextricably linked, with 90% of online shoppers social networking on their mobiles. Social offers brands and marketers the chance to engage consumers in a non-intrusive and relevant manner, out of reach of ad-blocking software that can disrupt much of the brand-consumer relationship. Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable about allowing brands into their online social lives: 3 in 10 online shoppers follow brands they are thinking of buying something from on social, and about 40% say they research brands on these channels.
There are plenty of brands that have leveraged the power of social media marketing and social commerce. In many Asian markets, social commerce has made a big impact and chatbots have been helping brands connect with consumers for some time. This Singles’ Day, WeChat was the communication tool most brands used to promote their deals and promotions. And due to e-commerce company JD.com being directly accessible within the WeChat app, brands can drive consumers straight to the purchase funnel without them having to leave the app.
But in most Western markets, interest and appeal in buying directly via social remains somewhat limited, and there remains a disconnect between the numbers of those researching and shopping on social platforms. Instead, here it seems social’s biggest use-case is for building brand affinity and pushing consumers along the path to purchase.
A number of brands have taken this approach. Live video on social is one way to engage a community more authentically than via simple advertising. On Valentine’s Day, for example, Dunkin’ Donuts demonstrated how live video can make a brand more relatable and accessible when it took viewers behind-the-scenes on a tour of its facilities on Facebook Live. Levi Stauss & Co is another example of a brand to leverage the role of social in the purchase journey with its ‘Virtual Stylist’ chatbot on Facebook Messenger that helps users determine which pair of jeans is the best fit for them.
The ability of social platforms to deliver user-friendly ads with targeted data has shown its value, but the development of chatbots and their future marketing potential is one area where the power of social and mobile really shines through. Competition is set to be fierce this festive season, but with a solid mobile-first strategy, and an innovative approach to social, brands can really keep ahead of the game.