'It's all in the Thumbs' - Facebook's New Research into the Rise of Mobile Commerce
Facebook's released a new blog post which examines the rising importance of mobile connectivity, and mobile marketing, in our communications landscape. The new post is part of a larger Facebook research project called 'The Thumb is in Charge', which examines the wider mobile shift in more detail, highlighting the opportunities, key trends and behavioral shifts which all businesses need to be aware of to best respond to rising consumer demand. The project gathers together learnings from a wide range of research, both Facebook's own and from external providers, examining the evolution of mobile and how we've come to rely so heavily on our devices to keep us in the loop. As noted on the blog:
"The shift from desktop to mobile is one of the biggest stories of our time, and perhaps one of the biggest in the history of retail. And it's moving at a rapid pace."
There are some fascinating and compelling insights in the report - here are some of the highlights:
The Desktop Migration
"According to eMarketer, US retail m-commerce (mobile commerce) sales are estimated to reach $74 billion this year, up 32% from 2014. This strong growth is expected to continue, with total m-commerce sales reaching roughly $149 billion by 2019."
While figures like this don't really come as a surprise anymore, it is worth taking a step back to recognize the sheer scope of the mobile shift. According to these estimates, mobile commerce is set to double within four years, which is a rapid rate of growth. As platforms become more attuned to social selling, and offer more tools to facilitate it (like 'Buy' buttons and streamlined on-platform payment options) that shift is going to become impossible to ignore. It pays, then, to be considering what options are available now to improve your own mobile transaction systems - what can your business do to meet the rising demands of mobile consumers? What can your brand do to make it easier and remove friction from the mobile connection and transaction process?
"Facebook IQ is seeing this development reflected in people's shifting behaviors. Of the conversions we saw from January to May of this year, 3 in 10 online purchases took place on mobile (24% on a phone, 6% on a tablet). During that same period, the frequency of mobile purchases increased 35%, according to Facebook IQ's latest internal analysis."
This is why Facebook is pushing so hard on mobile, and why we're seeing more and more mobile-focused innovations come out of The Social Network. There's 'Instant Articles', which emphasizes the benefits of posting direct to Facebook as Facebook provides a better mobile reading experience for your audience. There's 'Canvas', a new ad option which enables brands to create immersive, mobile brand experiences without the need for your own, dedicated mobile site. Facebook can see the trend and is moving to provide functionality to facilitate these new audience behaviors - and positioning themselves to be the big, long-term winners in the space as a result.
"There are many factors driving people to buy products on mobile devices, chief among them convenience and mobility: 56% of omni-channel shoppers said that they made a purchase on a mobile device because it was conveniently in their hand already and 55% said because they can do it "anywhere, anytime."
And this is the key element to consider - people are seeing an improved shopping experience via mobile, and when they experience this type of improvement from one brand, that raises the bar of expectation for the next. Even if you're not utilizing mobile shopping, other brands are, and the more they are, the more that overall consumer expectation increases. If they can get a better experience, a more convenient experience, elsewhere, that's where they'll go - considering your mobile marketing plan, in this context, is essential.
One of the stats highlighted by Facebook is the growing relationship consumers have with their mobile devices. Despite more and more people conducting their research process across various devices, mobile, Facebook's data says, remains the key element linking the majority of customer journeys.
"The one constant in people's cross-device and cross-channel shopping journeys is mobile. Mobile has become our constant companion, with 73% of people saying that it is always with them. Whether it's in their pocket or in their hand, mobile has the ability to influence people along every step of their consumer journey."
This is something we're all, no doubt, aware of - the fact that we have access to all the information we need, right there, right then, has caused a major shift in our everyday research and discovery behavior.
Facebook's data shows that 45% of all shopping journeys now include an action on a mobile device, a figure which jumps to 57% for Millennials.
That reliance is only going to increase, as our 'always on' nature becomes the way of all things. As more activities are being offered in easier, more user-friendly ways, aligned with the growing mobile trend, wider expectations also move in-step. Ignoring this shift could prove a costly mistake.
So how do you utilize this information to better market and connect with your target audience? Facebook notes that even though the mobile shift is clearly in effect, there are still ways we need to improve the mobile shopping experience.
"The top reasons omni-channel shoppers cited for buying on their desktop or laptop computers versus their smartphones or tablets included finding it easier to use a bigger screen (54%) and see all the available products on a desktop/laptop (54%) and finding it difficult to compare products/retailers, get all the info they need (26%) and enter personal data on a smartphone (26%)."
This underlines the importance of utilizing a multi-channel strategy rather than simply focusing on mobile alone, but it also highlights the importance of thinking of new ways to communicate via mobile, using more comprehensive and user-friendly methods to help people understand the full picture and facilitate easier access to relevant information and reference material at every stage of the process. Understanding the 'moments of truth', as Brian Solis calls them, the key points at which your potential customers make decisions on your products, is crucial to your process.
Facebook summed up their key findings in three notes:
Think people, not devices: It's tempting for us to think in terms of channels or devices, but it's always been about people. To reach the right people in the right place at the right time, we need to understand how and where they engage, discover and share.
Know the journey: The path from connection to conversion isn't always a straight line, with people switching devices and channels at will. The more complete the measurement picture, the better we can account for mobile's role in driving buying behavior-both online and offline.
Design for the thumb: Stopping the thumb takes more than mobile design; it takes personalization, visualization and experimentation. Above all, it takes empathy. The more we can put ourselves in people's shoes and understand their experience, the better experience we can create.
And this last point is really worth underlining for all digital commerce and new media experiences. In the new process, the world absolutely revolves around the user. Every person only has their one perspective, they can only see things from their own point of view. Understanding that, and building experiences that better connect with those personal experiences - through improved utility based on data and research driven insights - is the key to unlocking the full power of mobile marketing and utilizing social media and digital platforms to best effect. There's no one way to do this, there's no one right path, but your considerations should not be driven so much by overall digital trends, as much as they should by the evolving behaviors and trends within your unique target audiences.
You can download the full 'The Thumb is in Charge' from Facebook magazine here.
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