The world is increasing becoming mobile. The technology creators of today are creating goods for the SoLoMo consumer - the one who is social, location and mobile savvy. Social networks are realizing this fact and their members know that the social networking of tomorrow (and by that I mean in the next 2 years) will move heavily to mobile phones, and they will be heavily accessed with a location layer. Here are a few stats to give a better idea:
- Research shows that one-third (33 %) of the Facebook postings are mobile
- Americans spend nearly 2.7 hours per day connected to the mobile Web, and a vast majority of their time goes into social networking with mobile phones
- Mobile users tend to be more 'social' than the traditional desktop users. This can be seen from a study that 91% of mobile phone users go online to socialize compared to only 79% of traditional desktop users
The numbers above, along with the rising mobile penetration predictions clearly show the future shift in social networking towards mobile and the social networking giants - especially the big 5 of Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Foursquare and Google - clearly understand this. Hence it is not surprising to see that almost all of them have come up with their own set of mobile strategies. Moreover these networks also know that in order to generate revenues in the fast-growing mobile world, to attract brands that want to go mobile and boost up their own revenue models from a mobile consumer, they will need a heavy focus towards m-commerce.
Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to see how the mobile strategies of social networking platforms are powering m-commerce. This article will tell you how each social networking giant is coming up with mobile strategies and how their mobile strategy is impacting the mobile commerce of today and tomorrow.
I believe that m-commerce has a greater meaning than just monetary transaction using mobile phones. In this post I have tried to derive and work upon this greater meaning of m-commerce and have not limited myself to the transaction part of mobile commerce. Hence, I have tried to use m-commerce in the context of marketing, commerce, sales and CRM; basically the use of mobile to move a consumer across every aspect of the sales funnel.
The social network is seeing heavy shift in its traffic on mobile phones. Here are few of initiatives for powering mobile commerce
Facebook launched Facebook places in USA and Europe. With this initiative, they partnered with a couple of brands that offered discount deals to consumers on checking-in at various places. The idea led a lot of brands to create marketing campaigns using Facebook places. Starbucks offered free filter coffee to those who check-in, while Mazda offered free cars and cars on discounts. Dallas airport offered discounts from hospitality brands inside the airport on checking-in while Jet Blue launched the go places campaign and a Facebook app that rewarded badges and real gifts to people who checked-in. You can see some of the most creative Facebook Places mobile marketing examples in this mashable article.
(An update here - Facebook recently ended its Deals initiative after testing it in 8 cities)
Another mobile commerce initiative taken by Facebook is to facilitate Facebook credit purchases with mobile payment. What this means is, you can buy Facebook credits and the charges will be reflected in your mobile bill. Facebook has partnered with mobile payment companies Zong and Boku to help consumers buy on credit with mobile payment. If you are wondering how you can do this, visit the help post by Facebook Help Center
Similarly, Facebook's seriousness about m-commerce can also be seen from its HTML 5 efforts. It appears that Facebook is creating a platform that is fully mobile compatible so that users can access Facebook apps using the mobile browser. With this, Facebook can sell credits via the mobile browser and keep the complete control of the platform to itself by bypassing the Apple and Android appstores. This will greatly help Facebook in increasing its revenues from the credit purchases made by the mobile phone users, who will be buying virtual good while using the Facebook apps.
For Twitter, having a mobile strategy is even more important as 43% of Twitter users access it from mobile while 9% access is through tablets. Moreover, Twitter's mobile focus is obvious, especially as it started with an SMSing service. Twitter's 140 character limit was set so that they can fit within an SMS.
Twitter, too, has created tools to help brands in mobile marketing. I find the FastFollow tool most fascinating, through which you can SMS the Twitter handle of a brand to get its updates on your mobile by sending 'follow (Twitter handle)' to 40404 in the US. Similarly using the 'Get' tool you can get the latest updates from a user even if you do not follow him. [SMS 'Get (username)]
Another of Twitter mobile strategy that is interesting for brands is location tagging. This feature, with which you can tweet with your location. can be enabled if you have a browser that supports HTML5 and geo location, or with an iPhone or Android phone. Your followers can see where you are Tweeting from.
The mass popularity of Twitter, joined with location tagging and SMS features, makes it a great marketing tool for brands. However I have yet to see any interesting mobile marketing campaigns with Twitter. The only campaign that comes to my mind is by Kogi Barbeque that uses Twitter to update users about the location of the food truck. The customers, who can constantly check the tweets on their mobile phones are able to know the exact location of the food truck.
When it comes to the mobile strategies for social networks, in my research I have realized that Foursquare has the smartest initiative for brands to power mobile marketing and commerce.
To begin with, Foursquare has many partner brands that reward customers for checking in to their stores (something like Facebook's discontinued place Deals). Customers can exhibit their loyalty with frequent check-ins and brands get to know and reward their most loyal customers.
But it does not end there. Foursquare has another offering of Foursquare pages for businesses. With these pages, businesses can add tips for their consumers at various locations. These tips can be a brand's way of sharing its expertise with its followers or engaging them around something more interesting.
Brands have made good use of Foursquare pages for innovative campaigns to increase sales and gain promotions. For example, the New York Times partnered with Four Square during the 2010 Winter Olympics and guided the visitors to the best tourist spots across Vancouver. Similarly, Foursquare partnered with restaurant reviewer Zagat to help users find the best restaurants around them with reviews and ratings. You can see some of the best Foursquare marketing campaigns in these articles: (1) and (2).
Another Foursquare feature that has great marketing and sales potential is Foursquare Lists. With Foursquare Lists, consumers can create tips for their networks like best places to eat and top things to buy or visit, by tagging brands. Brands can use these lists to generate advocacy, know their evangelists and engage their customers through an effective CRM program. I look forward to some interesting mobile marketing by brands using Foursquare lists.
Groupon's mobile strategy is more like a location layer above its deals model. You get the Groupon experience but on your mobile phone, which can help you customize your deals based on your location.
Groupon's mobile apps help users purchase deals from their mobile phone, bypass the step where they have to print the proof of purchase and see the deals near their location. Moreover, with Groupon 'Now', the mobile users need not even wait for the deal to get activated. They can check the deals around their location and grab them right away at the touch of a button.
Surely Groupon has some great ideas to facilitate mobile commerce. Their mobile apps are adding a location layer which is greatly improving the consumer experience of purchasing deals.
Another interesting aspect of Groupon's mobile commerce strategy is Groupon's attempt to become world's largest mobile advertising network. Groupon is partnering with big mobile apps and app makers to run real time promotions of Groupon's deals from its clients based on proximity. Hence, the next time you use an app like Loopt and are near a Groupon deal, you will get a notification on your phone.
With the recent launch of Google plus and the integration of search with social, it would be difficult to not call Google a social giant.
Google has some very interesting commerce tools in its arsenal of mobile strategies. The Google Shopper app helps users simplify their everyday shopping experience. The app can be used to scan barcodes or book covers to get more information about the product. The app can also be used to find products or know the best prices from online stores or even get information about the stores in your vicinity. Certain versions at certain locations also give you daily deals and deals in proximity.
Google Catalogs, a free app for tablets, makes catalog browsing and product purchasing a very engaging experience. Users can browse across multiple catalogs, get rich media info like videos and high resolution images and really enhance their product research experience. The app helps users to share their finds with friends and even purchase them online or find nearby stores.
Google Wallet is another path breaking initiative by Google to make your payments quick and simpler. Google Wallet will hold the payment cards that you hold in your wallet today. The app uses NFC (near field communications) to make the fund transfer really simple. All you have to do is tap your phone on the reader and get your payment done. The eventual aim of the app is to sync loyalty cards, receipts, boarding passes, tickets, etc. all in one mobile app. Google even plans to use this apps for customers to avail Google offers.
I hope this research helps you in understanding how the mobile strategies of the world's top social networking platforms will impact the mobile commerce of today and tomorrow. I have summarized my presentation below in the research deck.