The Ever-Intersecting World of Mobile and Social (And 5 Ways to Leverage It)

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This post is Part 3 in a 4-part series on social commerce. Check out Part 1, “The Incredible Purchasing Influence of Social Media” and Part 2, “ The Key Pillars of Social Media’s Value in Ecommerce“.

It’s a given. These days, your customers are spending more time than ever on their mobile devices, whether it’s to check their social media accounts, read their email, or to shop. And often, it’s to do all at the same time. So, here’s the real question for marketers: How do you leverage the full potential of the intersecting relationship between social and mobile to drive conversions?

Social is “increasingly layered with mobile, and that combination can be a differentiator for users,” notes eMarketer in its report “Social Commerce: Influencing Shoppers and Assisting Sales.” eMarketer data shows that 24% of smartphone users consulted social media to help make a purchase, vs. just 12% of tablet users and 3% of those using desktops. This is an incredibly compelling statistic when it comes to understanding how consumers’ mobile and social behaviors are influencing purchases.

Shopping apps were the most used digital tool on mobile devices, notes eMarketer, but consumers were also using social media extensively. More than half of the respondents (55%) accessed a retailer’s social media channel on their mobile devices, while 44% turned to branded social media.

Given that we’re doing everything on our smartphones these days, it’s worth noting that consumers are also using their mobile phones to help them shop – often right inside brick-and-mortar stores. In January 2013, Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life omnibus survey found that  47% of consumers surveyed in the final weeks of the Christmas shopping season had used their mobile phones to ask friends or family for advice on purchases, while 28% checked prices online and 27% looked up online reviews inside the store. The smartphone, it seems, is becoming every consumer’s personal shopping assistant.

So how do you begin to leverage social and mobile to drive conversions? Here are 5 steps you can take now.

1. Look at how you’re deploying your media budget. Are you giving sufficient attention to mobile and social advertising?  Already, many brands are following the eyeballs by making significant investments in mobile and social, because that’s where their customers are spending their time. Ad revenues for U.S. digital advertising are projected to reach $82.7 billion by 2018, with the lion’s share directed to tablet and smart phones through mobile search ads, mobile web and in-app display ads, as well as video advertising, according to a forecast from BI Intelligence.

2. Prioritize responsive design to ensure your customer has an equally satisfying experience across all channels. Nothing can discourage the mobile customer faster from trying to make a purchase from a clunky website or a poorly displayed app. Make sure the links that you’re sharing on social media take your customer to responsive pages designed with a mobile-first mentality.

3. Put your effort into the social media platforms that your customers are most likely to use in a mobile format. Encourage sharing and engagement, and make sure the channels you invest in match your customer base. For example, if you’re reaching out to millennials and younger, consider social networks such as Snapchat and Instagram; if you want to reach women with something very visual, Pinterest is a good bet.

4. It’s time to stop putting mobile and social into two separate silos. Mobile is here to stay, so think about how it converges with social and make sure your two strategies are aligned. Your customers are tweeting, Instagramming and posting to Facebook from their smartphones and tablets. Make sure you are engaging them from wherever they are to create the very best customer experience possible for your audience.

5. Given the complex way that consumers operate in the social sphere and the physical world, the key to using social successfully is integration. Think about using social networks in conjunction with other approaches, channels and platforms. For example, try linking your email promotion to Pinterest boards or post a Facebook offer redeemable in your brick-and-mortar store, or offer shoppable YouTube videos that are advertised on Facebook and Google+.

As we’ve discussed in other installments in this mini-series, demographics do also matter – the younger your customers are, the more likely they are to convert via social media and women are more prone to take social media recommendations to heart when shopping.  And different social platforms have different strengths, which means using the social network that best suits your particular purpose at the time, whether it’s to advise your customers of a one-day sale on Twitter, or to give consumers a chance to serendipitously discover your product on image-rich sites such as Pinterest and Instagram. Facebook still leads the pack in conversions, but newer platforms are gaining popularity, particularly among certain segments of the population. (Think teens and Snapchat.)

One thing’s certain: The ubiquity and growing importance of mobile and social means your customers are likely to be using both, and you need to be ready to serve them.

–Kristine Lowery, Content Marketing at Sailthru