Originally published in eMarketer.
There are 73.3 million US smartphone users in 2011, eMarketer estimates, and many are turning to their phones to help them shop. A study conducted in January by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies revealed that more than half of 1,400 consumers polled reported using their smartphones to assist them with shopping. The research found that more than 70% of iPhone owners report using applications or their smartphone’s web browser to help them while shopping in-store, and 41% are making purchases directly from their phones.
According to the study released in March, 66% of respondents used their smartphones to conduct price comparisons on a product or service and 58% used them to find the closest store locations. While 41% of those polled said they had made purchases from their smartphones, just 17% said that making a purchase was their reason for using a smartphone.
This data is in line with comScore findings, also from January, which identified the top three mobile shopping activities for US smartphone users: finding nearby stores (49%), comparing prices prior to shopping (46%) and researching product details (44%).
Research from Accenture on retail shopping apps found that consumers considered those that offer money-off coupons (42%) and the ability to view current in-store specials (36%) most useful. But somewhat in line with Chadwick Martin Bailey and comScore, driving directions to the store (33%) was the third most useful function according to those polled.
High click rates for social media don’t tell the full story
Originally published in eMarketer.
According to Chadwick Martin Bailey, three-quarters of web users say they are likely to share pieces of content with their friends and family, an activity brands are watching closely in their attempts to leverage the influence of brand advocates.
In a statistic that has been backed up by other studies, including the August one by CMB, SocialTwist reported email was the most common channel used to share content via the company's Tell-a-Friend widget, accounting for more than half of all referrals. Social networks made up fewer than a quarter of shares.
But shares on social networks had outsize importance in terms of clicks: 60% of clicks generated on shared items came from social networks, compared with just 31% from email.
One reason for the imbalance is the undeniably high clickthrough rates for shared content on social sites. Links posted to Facebook via the Tell-a-Friend widget generated an average of 2.87 clicks each. Twitter shares did even better, with an average of 19.04 users clicking each referral link.
But email may be performing better than it seems at first glance. Emails sent through the Tell-a-Friend widget include the full piece of content in the message, so users don't need to click through to the original site to read the item that a friend thought was interesting enough to send. Facebook and Twitter users, by contrast, must click through to read more than a blurb.
For many sources of content, the clickthrough is key: When visitors click through to the originating site it opens up the possibility of ad revenues as well as the ability to build awareness and purchase intent while the user is on an owned-media property. But email recipients who read the content shared without clicking through will still get the benefit of an earned-media recommendation. Brands should ensure that shareable content carries a message on its own that will remain effective when read through an email client, since such messages remain the primary sharing vehicle for consumers.
Earlier research similarly showed that email shares had a lower click rate than items sent through Twitter or Facebook, but email shares led to more engagement, including more pages viewed and, most important, more conversions.
Journey is complex and multidirectional
A lingering recession, coupled with consumers’ rapid adoption of digital tools, has inexorably altered shopping behavior in categories like groceries, home electronics, apparel and quick-service restaurants. Consumers engage with a variety of digital platforms as they research small and large purchases, when they’re in physical stores and during post-shop activities such as product reviews and referrals. Further, the path to purchase is increasingly nonlinear, according to the findings of a global retail study conducted by Microsoft Advertising and Carat.
The study, conducted in March 2010, examined how the recession has changed shoppers’ purchasing habits and how different media touchpoints affect consumer shopping behavior, including the way people learn about, research and discuss their purchase decisions. This shift has altered the traditional purchase funnel whereby marketers move consumers from awareness to sales to include digital media. For example, consumers may first learn about a product based on a tweet from a friend or a post on a social network, then go online via computer or smartphone to research the product, search for the product and consult product reviews. Beyond that, offline word-of-mouth and media remain influencers, making for a complex multimedia experience along the path to purchase.
Using mobile devices in-store to help make a final decision on an item is a newer and notable influence along the purchase path: The study found 38% of US shoppers said they used their mobile devices to help make a final decision to make a store purchase. And 31% of those polled purchased a new item after using their phone in-store. This finding signifies the rise of yet another media channel in the convoluted path to purchase.
Further demonstrating the need for brands and retailers to evaluate the impact of digital touchpoints, the study found that post-shop, 11% of those blogged about the purchase experience, posted a comment about the purchase on a social networking site and 11% posted a review online, respectively.
In addition, the research found that in the low-involvement grocery segment, 39% of those surveyed engaged in social network conversation about potential purchases but 47% of grocery reconnaissance occurred on the phone with friends and family. It is worth noting that not all social networking is digital.
Another study, “Engaging Consumers: The New Normal,” conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey, iModerate Research Technologies and SageBerry Consulting, underscores the findings. That report found that since consumers have reduced spending, the shopping process becomes all the more important. The bottom line: Entirely new shopping, research and media consumption habits are emerging—and retailers and brands need to figure out how to address them.
“We found that the way people shop has changed and that during the period where people are making and refining lists, owned media from retailers is a top source of information,” said Beth Uyenco Shatto, global research director with Microsoft's ads unit.
By “owned” Shatto means media that originates from retailers online, in-store and elsewhere. Owned media created by marketers that appears on the retailer’s site (e.g., banners, video and microsites), along with in-store media, are also influential.
As consumer purchasing habits change, so must retailer and marketer communications. They need to collaborate to engage consumers on every channel that has the capacity to influence purchase and result in post-purchase satisfaction.
Only 18- to 24-year-olds use the social networking site more than email for passing items on
Originally published emarketer.
Content-sharing has become a staple of internet usage for most online adults. Research from Chadwick Martin Bailey found that three-quarters of web users are likely to share content with friends and family, and nearly half do so at least once a week. But while much social networking content is built around such shared items, most people still prefer to use email to pass along items of interest.
Overall, 86% of survey respondents said they used email to share content, while just 49% said they used Facebook. Broken down by age, the preference for email is more pronounced as users get older. And only the youngest group polled, those ages 18 to 24, reverses the trend, with 76% sharing via Facebook, compared with 70% via email.
Earlier research from StrongMail and ShareThis also found email was still on top for content-sharing. Other studies have shown that, when limited to sharing on social sites, Facebook is No. 1.
Asked what gets them to share content online, web users polled by Chadwick Martin Bailey revealed selfish motivations. Rather than focusing on sharing content they thought the recipients would find helpful or relevant (58%), most respondents cared more about what they thought was interesting or amusing (72%). Asked to select the single biggest reason they shared content, the greatest percentage of respondents (45%) again said it was because they enjoyed it. Men and women reported similar reasons for sharing, but motivations varied by age. The oldest respondents cared more about the value of content to recipients: 67% of those ages 55 and older said they shared items because they would be useful to recipients, compared with just 45% of 18- to 24-year-olds.
This difference in sharing motivation could have a relationship to the method of sharing. Email is a more targeted form of sending content; while content-sharers may shoot off mass emails to large distribution lists, most email shares are likely sent to a person or small group selected based on the specific content being shared.
Sharing via social networks like Facebook, by contrast, typically involves feeding items to an entire friends list. The youngest users, who care the least about whether the recipients of their content actually want to see it, are also most likely to disseminate the information to the widest group. And the seniors and older boomers who find the recipients' needs more important dramatically favor email for sharing, suggesting they are sending relevant items to only those who will want them.
Social media marketers looking for an indication that their efforts are helping the bottom line will be encouraged by findings from Chadwick Martin Bailey
that social friends and followers feel more inclined to purchase from the brands they are fans of.
More than one-half of Facebook fans said they are more likely to make a purchase for at least a few brands, and 67% of Twitter followers reported the same.
The power of earned media gives a further boost to brands: 60% of respondents claimed their Facebook fandom increased the chance they would recommend a brand to a friend. Among Twitter followers, that proportion rose to nearly eight in 10.
The researchers also explored why social media users become brand fans. The top reason to friend a brand on Facebook was to receive discounts, followed by simply being a customer of the company and a desire to show others that they support the brand. On Twitter, discounts, up-to-the-minute information and exclusive content were the main draws; only 2% of respondents followed brands on Twitter to show their support.
The findings are largely in line with previous research about what social followers want, but the results changed when Chadwick Martin Bailey asked respondents about why they had first decided to follow brands, and allowed them to choose as many reasons as they liked.
Among Facebook fans, the top reasons were being a customer (49%) and to show support (42%), with discounts and promotions coming in third (40%). Another 34% simply said it was fun and entertaining to become a fan. On Twitter, being a customer won out (51%), with discounts (44%) and fun (42%) rounding out the top three.
The social networking audience in the US has reached critical mass. eMarketer estimates that 57.5% of all US Internet users, or 127 million people, will use a social network at least once a month in 2010. By 2014, nearly two-thirds of Internet users will be on board.
Marketers have been chasing this audience for several years, but the question remains: Do consumers notice, or care?
“Those who still think that social network users are too busy engaging with friends to notice marketers must change their viewpoint,” said Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the new report “Brand Interactions on Social Networks.” “Brand interactions are real, valuable and growing. “
According to a February 2010 survey by Chadwick Martin Bailey, a market research firm, 33% of Facebook users have become fans of brands on the network.
Another survey, by Edison Research, found that 16% of social network users had friended brands there. And half (51%) had done so on Twitter.
Coupons remain a leading driver of brand interactions in social networks. Learning about sales and new products is also a strong motivator for people to interact with companies in social media. Beyond the tangibles, such as coupons, consumers do gain positive feelings about a brand as a result of their interactions.
Still, social networks are not seen as primary research sources when consumers are looking to buy. Although people are very inclined to take advice from friends and family about products they are interested in, they are not nearly as likely to seek out their social network friends when they are researching online.
According to a study by PowerReviews and the e-tailing group, only 3% of online buyers said they sought recommendations from social network friends first, compared with 57% who started with search engines.
“More than half of all Internet users now use social networks, and the percentage of social network users who talk about companies, either in organic conversations or on branded company pages, is growing,” said Ms. Williamson. “Consumers do pay attention and they do value positive interactions with companies.
“But while people trust their friends for advice and use social networks as part of their research process, social networks are long way from replacing search, if they ever will, as a source of information leading to a purchase.”