Digital shopping tools are gaining popularity amongst consumers and proving to be the key drivers in their path to purchase. The Q1 2016 consumer survey conducted by Epsilon in North America, Shoppers Voice, analysed consumer shopping habits and sentiment. The findings uncovered how consumers are navigating digital and social media on their path to purchase. Among the interesting takeaways from this study is the influence that digital and social media have on a shopping trip as well as how marketers can use these tools to better the shopping process for customers through contextually relevant experiences.
The study revealed that 75% of consumers depend on Facebook for shopping information, whereas less than 30% of consumers depend on Instagram for information related to product purchases. Around 46% of consumers reported they do not use Pinterest for shopping information.
These findings show that the current dependency on social media — as part of the shopping process — is to gain information in the form of product recommendations and customer reviews from rustworthy sources. This is currently leveraged more through content-based platforms than visual-based platforms. These platforms inspire consumers and act as aspirational channels that engage users through ideas related to home decorations, style trends, travel destinations and more.
For marketers looking to understand where these visual-based platforms fit in their digital marketing strategy, it’s important to consider where they fall on a consumer’s path to purchase. These platforms are currently used by consumers earlier in the shopping process, before they are ready to make the purchase.
Consumers using social media for product reviews and customer feedback do so later in their decision-making process, turning to their trustworthy sources to make the actual purchase decision. These insights are mainly gathered from social networking websites.
Marketers should keep an eye on various social platforms and develop the ability to determine if a particular digital strategy makes sense for their business. In addition to social media, e-commerce websites are taking prominence in decision-making for consumers. This is particularly true when it comes to consumers seeking information based on product reviews and recommendations. For instance, in the US, 77% of consumers rely on Amazon.com for information on purchase and purchase-related behaviour even though they might not shop from the website. This information helps consumers understand the quality of products. Another report, 2015 Digital Shopping Tool Impact Study, found that while penetration for mobile payments lies at only 7%, the impact on purchase decisions for consumers using mobile as a tool rests at more than 31%. While there is low consumer adoption for mobile payments, the shopping tool has a strong influence on shopping behaviour due to its ability to enable fast, convenient and secure options for customers to pay with their smartphones. A mobile strategy will help marketers increase loyalty amongst their best customers and influence impulse purchases.
As with any marketing plan or approach, once marketers understand how consumers are leveraging social, e-commerce and mobile in their path to purchase, a digital activation plan needs to be created. It is essential to ensure that all marketing tools are working together. With so many ways to interact with shoppers, it’s easy for marketing messages to become fragmented and disconnected resulting in sub-par customer experiences. Making sure all marketing tools work together — online and offline — will create a seamless and enjoyable shopping experience that will lead to the highest likelihood of conversion and, ideally, long-term relationships.
The author is Tom Edwards, chief digital officer, Epsilon