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Social influence: where mobile commerce really begins


Paul Skeldon, Mobile Editor, Internet Retailing, investigates the link between mobile, social and sales.

Social media and mobile are made for each other – and increasingly, they are made for retail too. In fact, some 6% of mobile traffic to UK retailers’ websites is driven by social apps such as Snapchat and Instagram – more than any other country globally. So says the Q2 17 Shopping Index – a report on the activities of more than 500 million shoppers worldwide, to identify trends and changes in ecommerce – from Salesforce .

The report goes on to show that mobile is quickly becoming the most disruptive force to retail since the arrival of ecommerce. For the first time, mobile phones showed the biggest increase in buying intent in the UK, with 48% year-on-year growth. Globally, mobile traffic share jumped to 57%, a 23% increase year-on-year. In the UK, mobile phones saw the biggest increase in buying intent with growth of 48% YoY.

It is the growing influence of mobile and social networks that is most interesting. According to the report, social traffic is up 42% YoY and fast becoming the face of brands. In fact, social media is playing a key role in driving traffic to ecommerce sites, highlighting the importance for a unified commerce strategy which is seamless and consistent across all channels.

Jamie Merrick, Director of Strategic Solutions at Salesforce Commerce Cloud explains: “The days when we would wait to log onto a laptop or computer to buy a new shirt are far behind us. Mobile is quickly becoming the most disruptive force to retail since the arrival of ecommerce. Our latest Shopping Index shows mobile phones saw the biggest increase in buying intent with growth of 48% year-on-year. Retailers that have a mobile-first approach are the ones that are winning, especially those that have quick payment options like Apple Pay and Android Pay.”

He continues: “Social apps like Snapchat and Instagram are also playing a part in the increase in mobile traffic. In the UK, 6% of mobile traffic is driven by social – more than any other country globally. This trend highlights the importance of unified commerce across all channels – whether a customer shops in-store or is scrolling through Instagram and purchases on mobile, the experience should be consistent and easy for the customer.”


Taken together, mobile and social media apps are producing ultra-connected shoppers, and these are reshaping how online and mobile retail work. “The rapid rise of the connected shopper reflects the enormous influence technology now has in our lives as shoppers – digital media inspirers us, is our go to place for product research and, in many cases, is where we buy products,” says Alastair Lockhart, Insight Director at Savvy Marketing. Shopper behaviour is evolving more quickly than ever before, and the onus is now firmly on retailers and brands to keep up and be fit for the future.”

The growing influence of tech-savvy Generation Y shoppers is the main reason that brands and retailers need to change the way they think and be more social. Once viewed as the shoppers of tomorrow, Generation Y is fast becoming the bullseye shopper of today. While this group currently represents around a third of shoppers, by 2022 they will account for 47% of shoppers.

They are constantly connected. Their smartphones sit at the centre of their lives, with 80% of Generation Y saying they look at their phones multiple times an hour. They are also highly active on social media – 97% having accessed social media in the past month. 95% have used messaging services like Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. In perspective, only 55% of this group had read a printed newspaper (including free papers) during the past month. 66% of Generation Y shoppers say they regularly use their smartphone to buy products and nearly half (49%) regularly use their smartphones while in the supermarket.

Lockhart adds: “Retailers and brands need to think outside of the confines of stores and retail websites to unlock the full spending potential of Generation Y. Retailers and brands need to go where there shoppers are – and that place is mainly social media, especially Facebook. It’s not only about providing inspiration on social media, more and more it is about converting a sale. Younger shoppers seek ultimate convenience, so if they see something they want on Facebook, they want the option to buy there and then. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram now have ‘Shop Now’ cloudons which retailers and brands can feature on their posts. Cloudons like these provide a powerful means to convert sales at the point when shoppers have been inspired.”


Understanding how to use social media to influence is also key – and that increasingly involves looking at how to use social content, social networks and social influencers to promote the messages you want. While engaging them through social channels is how many brands choose to leverage social media right now, the clever ones are looking at how to use social to create content that they can then use in ‘social campaigns’ – effectively using their social media fans’ own content to market back to them and beyond.

“User-generated content campaigns are particularly interesting because the campaigns don’t end when the promotion ends,” says Sumari MacLeod, a blogger at Hootsuite. “A successful UGC campaign will leave you with tons of new content that you can then use to continue to market your brand. The extra value provided by these campaigns is also something you should be testing, in order to ensure you’re making the most of all of the content at your disposal.”

There are effectively three things you can do with UGC and social media marketing that will benefit your business. First up, you can simply use it to engage with your customers. Running social media campaigns with a dedicated hashtag asking for photos, videos and posts about something to do with your company – for example, Starbucks got people to doodle on their coffee cups and send in photos of the result: they received millions – is a nice way to let your customers feel involved with your brand. And happy, involved and engaged customers come back for more and tell their friends.

The other side to using social generated content is that you take all this great content and use it to sell. Putting your actual customers and their experiences of your products into advertising – that is then either shared socially or pushed out through more traditional means – links together the warm fuzzy feelings of being loved by the brand, while also helping other Gen Y-ers see that people like them like your products. According to ComScore, brand engagement rises nearly 30% when consumers are exposed to both UGC and professional content. This is because they trust the views of their peers and like the look of the pro content. And it works particularly well with millennials.

UGC also delivers another perk: better SEO. According to Kissmetrics, “25% of search results for the World’s Top 20 largest brands are links to user generated content”. Positive customer reviews can raise your SEO ranking and analysing the most frequently used words and phrases your audience uses can improve your keyword optimization research.

While social is the place to engage and be seen, it is also the place to see what is happening with your products and, increasingly, to help shape your product lines and business. For starters, you can start to see which products are most popular. But it goes way beyond that. Look at the pictures; does the lighting or other clues show when people tend to like to use your product? Can the surroundings tell you where and how they use them? Maybe there is even a timestamp. This information is vital as it can help you target your marketing better, but it can also help you understand your users, tailor your products better to their needs and launch new products.

One example is cheese. Hootsuite ran a photo contest with a Canadian cheese company where they asked fans to take a picture of their favourite recipe using the company’s cheddar. Not only did the cheesemonger get hundreds of UGC photographs, but they also learned exactly what their fans liked to do with their cheese. This information can be used not only to drive future campaigns, but to drive future business partnerships.

Reviews too can tell you an awful lot about your business. The power of mobile and social together can’t be underestimated. For many Gen-Y and millennials, the two are synonymous and social is how they use mobile to do everything – even shop. One of the many challenges retailers face in the mobile age is how to understand this link between business, mobile, social and sales. Crack this, and the future of retail is yours.

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