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Song of experience: how finding the right social voice is key to m-retailing

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The news that Debenhams is seeing a boom in sales through mobile comes as no surprise. As my esteemed colleague Chloe Rigby points out, department stores tend to see online sales grow more quickly than elsewhere.

But there is another factor at play: shoppers are just becoming more mobile centric in their approach to shopping. According to UK-wide research by ICM for Criteo, 2.5 million UK consumers shop on their mobile for something every single day. If that’s not mainstream, I don’t know what is.

Buried within the report – upliftingly titled A portrait of mobile performance: Measuring the pleasure in UK mobile shopping in 2016 – are some really interesting factoids that give a really telling indication about why people are turning to mobile and why perhaps IRUK Top 500 retailer Debenhams is seeing such a surge in mobile sales.

According to the ICM research clothing, perhaps surprisingly, has become the premier purchase on mobile devices. Almost a quarter of the UK population say they have bought clothes on mobile, way ahead of those staples of music and film (16%) and health and beauty (14%).

This is surprising as you’d think people like to try things on before buying, but it seems that social pressure – through social media – and impulse buying are the real drivers here. A third of consumers are doing their mobile buying in front of the TV in the evening and 27% – almost as many – are doing it in bed at night.

Social media seems to be the main driver for this – although you could also perhaps argue that TV is also playing a role here – with heavy social media users buying more and buying on mobile more frequently than ‘normal’ people.

This is perhaps due to copycat shopping, where they see things their friends and contacts have bought and want it too, or more likely they are being egged on online by their friends to buy whatever it happens to be.

Either way, social media and mobile – which are increasingly joined at the hip in terms of user usage – are pushing mobile retail to new heights.

And it seems that Debenhams is one of the leading UK retailers that is open about how much of an impact this move is having.

The interesting thing here is that this growth – both at Debenhams and across the gamut of retailers in the ICM research – is so far almost entirely user driven. It seems that the brands themselves are doing very little to encourage how shoppers use social: it is the shoppers who are using social then, with a flick of the thumb, buying stuff that are in the driving seat.

This is something of a poser for the retailers. Right now it seems ok to let it tick along as is, growing nicely with little input (or spending!). But this isn’t going to last. Right here is the data you need to start really pulling together what your social media marketing strategy should be. Perhaps stores and paid for Tweets aren’t the way ahead; maybe you need to look more at brand advocates and other ways to get in on the conversations people are having on social – without getting too creepy.

Interestingly, in the ICM research, the sentiment from the consumers polled was that they are up for an increasingly emotional tie and a relationship with brands they like. This is clearly the way in for retailers. The challenge, as ever, is how to find the right voice and pitch your interaction at the right level to get them to love you and not think you are stalking them.

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