Facebook has published a new report which looks at how consumer habits have changed as a result of the pandemic, and the key trends that are driving the big shifts in how people find and purchase products, including increased mobile usage, concerns about data privacy, the rise of the creator economy and more.
As per Facebook:
"The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how, where and when people shop. Across the world, 81% of consumers say they’ve changed a shopping habit since the start of the pandemic, and 92% say they will continue this new behavior in the long-term. As a result of global and personal changes, what sits at the heart of consumers’ expectations today is the ability to choose and control how they shop - whether it’s having a say in what data they share in exchange for personalization or being more selective in the creators they go to for inspiration."
Which is an interesting point to make, considering the noise that Facebook has made in voicing its opposition to Apple's ATT update, which gives consumers more control over the data they share with advertisers.
But even though Facebook isn't particularly happy about having less consumer data to work with as a result of the change, the fact of the matter is that this is a broader industry trend, as Facebook notes, and consumers are seeking more control over their personal data, and how it's used.
Which is a key consideration, and one of the focus points of this new report.
As you can see, Facebook acknowledges that consumers want more transparency in such, even if that will impact its business.
Yet, at the same time, Facebook also notes that most consumers do still want personalized recommendations, which come as a result of such data.
"Some 69% of global online shoppers feel more personally connected to brands that offer personalized content or deals, and 60% are interested in using a personalized shopping tab to discover tailored content."
The onus then, Facebook says, is for platforms like Facebook to provide more assurance and transparency in such process, to help consumers understand how and why their data is used.
“People’s perceptions of how data is used will hopefully improve, but only if our industry resolves to make progress. That means committing to a future in which we have access to less data and in which data use becomes more intuitive and easy to understand.”
That could eventually see user data flows going back to normal, despite the uptake of Apple's new ATT prompts, which have already seen many people switching off in-app tracking. But with ad recommendations becoming less focused as a result, that could see some switching it back on - while as Facebook notes, it's up to the platforms to provide better explanations and insights on such to maintain user trust for such usage.
The report also looks at the increasing reliance on mobile connection for shopping, and how people are using their devices to both research and purchase products.
As you can see, the majority of respondents said that their mobile device is becoming their most important shopping tool, a shift which has been exacerbated by the pandemic, with 45% of people also noting that they shopped more via their smartphone during the global lockdowns.
Which, of course, is no surprise, but many also expect that to become a more embedded, habitual shift, as opposed to a short-term response measure.
And also worth highlighting the second chart above - it's not only in-home shopping in this context, people are also using increasingly their mobile devices as a research tool when buying in-store.
"56% report [using their devices when making in-store purchases] for an increased sense of confidence in their purchase decisions. This sense of security and reassurance is underpinning people’s use of mobile, with 35% of US shoppers seeking information on their phones to make sure there are no better options and 34% searching for additional information."
That makes your online product listings even more valuable, and important, because it's not just people shopping from their couch that you need to reach, but those in your physical store as well.
The report also looks at the rising use of messaging apps as a means to complement the purchase process.
"The pandemic has accelerated the usage of messaging services for seamless and personal support. Over 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, total daily conversations between people and businesses on Messenger and Instagram grew more than 40%. In this seamless process, over half (53%) of consumers want the ability to purchase directly through a messaging app and even more want the ability to customize products through chat functions (59%)."
That bodes well for Facebook's development of new eCommerce tools for WhatsApp, while its future messaging integration plans, which will eventually connect the messaging back-end of Messenger, Instagram Direct and WhatsApp, will also enable increased connection, and more opportunities for businesses that are utilizing messaging for consumer connection.
Finally, the report provides some perspective on the rise of creator culture, which has become a key focus for all social platforms, with the race now on to provide the best incentives to keep creators posting to their apps.
And again, with eCommerce also an increasing focus, this could well be a key reason:
"Over half (51%) of consumers surveyed get ideas on which products to shop for from celebrities and creators, and 45% of online shoppers globally say they want to buy products promoted by creators directly on social media."
While providing more monetization tools for creators is good for the platform ecosystem, in terms of fueling a constant flow of new content from popular users, it likely also leads into this next stage of on-platform selling, and facilitating eCommerce growth. Which is now a focus for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter - almost every platform is now examining further eCommerce options, with a view to expanding their revenue potential and tools.
Honestly, this is one of the best research reports I've seen in recent times, with a heap of valuable insights into key consumer shifts, and their impacts on business planning. If you're looking to get a handle on the evolving consumer landscape - from discovery to purchase - it's worth taking a look, and considering the implications of each element for your digital marketing strategy.
You can download Facebook's full "Evolving Customer Experience" report here.