With the rise of social and mobile, more people are going online to purchase goods and services than ever before. Marketers and business owners should be thinking about three trends in particular that are shaping the future of online commerce: social sharing, live online chat, and mobile commerce.
In today's online marketplace, social sharing is having an increasingly profound effect on our purchase behavior. A recent study by Social Labs found that 62% of all online shoppers have read product-related comments from friends on Facebook; 75% of these shoppers have ended up clicking through to visit the retailer's site; 53% who click through end up purchasing the product.¹
The study also showed that this kind of social proofing has a marked impact on shopper confidence, with 57% of shoppers more likely to buy after receiving positive brand acknowledgement from a social buddy.¹ It seems that positive social sharing experiences tend to create behavioral cycle of social sharing and purchase, further impacting the online consumer ecosystem.
Your business can capitalize on the trend toward social sharing by displaying socially shared content directly on your web or ecommerce site. Offering an option to share "on-site only" will encourage leery consumers to share, and will provide persuasive social proofing content for new visitors.¹
Ask satisfied customers to provide reasons why they like your product or service; the more positive feedback you can offer other prospects, they greater the likelihood they will convert to sales.
Make it easy for customers to share experiences with friends by providing social share buttons on your site. This kind of frictionless sharing will broaden your reach, as you deputize an army of brand ambassadors that will go forth and promote your products to their social media following.
Social sharing and other forms of user-generated content are fast becoming the rule rather than the exception. For example, according to eMarketer, 65% of users aged 18-24 consulted the information they found about brands on social networks when making a purchasing decision. You should care about this, because by 2017, Millennials will be driving US commerce.
LIVE ONLINE CHAT
For online shoppers, live chat has finally reached a tipping point of adoption. In a 2011 survey by eMarketer, more than 2,000 people in the U.S. and the U.K. were asked about their experiences with live chat. The survey revealed significant growth over previous years for both chats initiated by visitors and for chats resulting from proactive invitations from retailers.²
20% of shoppers said they preferred live chat as their communication method of choice for contacting a retailer. In five out of eight key shopping scenarios - including having trouble finding an item, checkout errors and questions about promotional codes - live chat was chosen as the method preferred over email and phone.²
The survey found that customers preferring live chat tend to be college-educated with a higher household income, more likely to shop more frequently, spend more, and are highly-influenced by the chat experience. In fact, the study found that shoppers who chatted four or more times in the last few months showed all of these attributes in an even more amplified way.
The study concluded that, based on the growth of chat being seen, "we're approaching a time when 75 percent or more of regular shoppers will have engaged in a live chat with a retailer.²
It may be time to take live chat more seriously.
More shoppers are turning to their mobile devices when purchasing goods and services online than ever before, according to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Placecast . The survey found that 39m Americans made an online purchase using their phone last year, which represents roughly 20% of all mobile phone owners in the United States.³
Of the smartphone owners Harris Interactive polled, some 59% indicated that having the ability to make a purchase using their device was at least "somewhat important." Surprisingly, 30% of all mobile phone owners who don't already receive marketing text messages from retailers said that they'd be interested in receiving them.
For those who want to read more, I've written more extensively about the trend to mobile commerce in a recent blog post.
These three trends are not surprising when you think about how most of us make purchase decisions. We tend to look for input or advice from people whom we trust and who either have knowledge or experience about the product we're thinking of buying. When we go to the store (online or bricks-and- mortar) we're looking for affirmation and simplicity- tell me I'm making the right decision, and make it easy for me to act.
For marketers and business owners, here are three takeaways:
Social Shares - Once you've converted a customer, make sure to leverage them on your website and social media. This will amplify your message, increase your reach, and create a buzz for your product.
Live Chat - Real-time engagement with consumers, personal interaction builds trust and transparency, shows you care, fosters brand loyalty, and creates brand evangelists.
Mobile Commerce - Make sure to optimize your website for mobile. Doing so will force you to simplify your message and create a clean user experience. Make it easy for prospects and customers to find you wherever/whenever, and provide a site that leads them down the sales funnel to effortless purchase.
Remember one last thing: people WANT to brag about the great deal they got, the great shopping experience they had.
Embrace these trends and help them do it.
¹ Social Labs, "Social Sharing 2012"
² Business News Daily, "Live Chat for Online Bloggers Comes of Age"
³ eConsultancy, "39M People Made a Purchase Via Mobile Last Year: Stats"
Image Courtsey of Apple App Store