If there's one thing that social media brings to the fore it's that we're all pretty similar. People, all over the world, we all experience the human condition in different places, but we all crave similar things and follow similar paths. It's that familiarity that links us, and that makes social media such a powerful tool - the ability to connect across borders, across nations, in real-time, anytime, is something we probably take for granted.
It's from this perspective that I viewed the latest research from Facebook which looks at the mobile journey of shoppers in Latin America. While the data presented is obviously focused on this one region, the trends and behaviors identified are largely indicative of wider, global shifts - and the insights presented are worth noting, even if you're not marketing to this specific audience.
Path to Purchase
To get a perspective on the mobile shopping and social media habits of shoppers from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, Facebook commissioned Ipsos Media CT to study internet active people aged 15 and over. Their findings paint a fascinating portrait of the modern consumer, particularly in terms of path to purchase - from the Facebook IQ report:
"42% of Connected Shoppers across Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico start their research online but complete their purchase in store. And 21% find something in store before buying it online. The path to purchase is often no longer a "path" at all-at least not in a linear sense."
This is largely reflective of wider trends - these days, the path to purchase is often a back-and-forth tide, it's not really a linear process. Because it doesn't have to be. Shoppers know that they can research online, then look in store, then do more research based on that hands-on interaction with the product to refine their choices and see if they can find a better price. Researchers also found that 66% of these shoppers ('Connected Shoppers' is how they refer to them in the report) check in on Facebook while they shop, while 77% post their own product reviews on the platform after purchase, often with photos and videos.
Facebook's key takeaway from this is that retailers and marketers need to realize the fluidity in which shoppers utilize both in-store and online resources, noting that "a frictionless, integrated experience may be the reason shoppers choose one brand over another".
"Brands that succeed in this new ecosystem will be the ones that deliver seamless, consistent experiences for all shoppers, however they choose to shop."
This is a key point, and one which is worth underlining - the purchase process, from research to conversion, has irrevocably changed in the connected era. Every stage of the journey has been altered, consumers now look to the web for information and inform themselves before they even look to get in touch with your brand. In that process, the company that caters to those behaviors puts themselves in the best position to succeed - and that means having not only a website, but a presence in every channel where your prospective customers are seeking info.
The Impact of Mobile
Researchers found that the majority of Connected Shoppers in Latin America research their purchases via mobile - with one in four going on to make purchases on those devices.
The info on research is particularly interesting, and no doubt an increasingly common trend amongst consumers everywhere - a rising amount of information is being sourced via mobile devices.
Of course, anyone working in the marketing and advertising realm is already aware of the importance of optimizing for mobile, these numbers just further reinforce the critical role mobile plays in the purchase process. In the report, Facebook notes that:
"...mobile is often the key to reaching that shopper in the moments that matter most. Brands will want to ensure they are delivering a best-in-class mobile experience, catering to each shopper's differing needs throughout the journey."
Which is solid advice - it's often via mobile that shoppers are now getting that key information that confirms their decision to make a purchase or not. Catering to this is crucial.
As this research is conducted by Facebook, is not surprising to see a Facebook-specific section in the data points. As noted earlier, researchers found that many Connected Shoppers also use Facebook throughout the purchase process.
The numbers here are worth noting - 75% of Connected Shoppers seek recommendations from family and friends. Why? Because they can. The always-on nature of the modern consumer means that they're able to gather more insights into potential purchases than ever before. Why wouldn't you ask your Facebook friends what they thought of a major purchase before going ahead with it? Why wouldn't you look it up on Facebook and see if any of your connections had any thoughts?
In line with this, the number people making recommendations via Facebook are also very high - 78% of Connected Shoppers are posting product recommendations to Facebook to help their connections make better purchase decisions. If that stat doesn't underline why having a presence and being aware of the wider Facebook discussion around your brand is important, I don't know what will.
As with all of Facebook's IQ Insights data, the "Mapping the Mobile Journey of Shoppers in Latin America" report has some great insights, and raises some important points that are worth considering. As noted in the introduction, even if you're not looking to reach the Latin American market specifically, many of these trends are indicative of more widespread behavioral evolutions, an increasing number of people around the world are using social media and online content as reference material for their purchases. It pays to be catering to this shifts and to ensure your brand is aware of what your consumers are experiencing, and how they're experiencing it, when they go to find more information about your products and services online.