Many online shoppers now find products or discover brands on mobile devices, and use mobile search or mobile apps for social media. This trend toward mobile-friendly shopping inspiration may suggest that mobile advertising and content marketing could have a significant impact on a store’s ecommerce sales.
“It used to be that shoppers would thumb through catalogs or stare longingly at the holiday window displays,” wrote Google Retail Industry Director Julie Krueger in an October 2016 Think with Google article. “But mobile is now the super shopper’s go-to-source for inspiration. Sixty-four percent of smartphone shoppers turn to mobile search for ideas about what to buy before heading into stores.”
Krueger’s article specifically addresses holiday sales and a “new breed” of consumer “super shoppers” who are both mobile savvy and open to new products. But the trend — the idea of using a smartphone to discover a product or store — may be applicable to more than just holiday so-called super shoppers.
Mobile device usage is still growing significantly and it makes good sense that as shoppers become more dependent on smartphones generally, they would also become more dependent on mobile for specific things like shopping inspiration. “Mobile is their muse,” as Krueger put it.
Mobile Platform for Product Discovery
There have been many surveys, polls, and reports that support the idea that mobile devices play a role in helping shoppers find interesting things to buy.
As an example, Tapbuy, a mobile optimization platform, reported that some 79 percent of millennials surveyed said “they have discovered new brands, products or services on their smartphones.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers, a London-based professional services company, reported in 2016 that 62 percent of shoppers scout for products on mobile devices before making a buying decision. That’s up some 18 percent from PwC’s 2015 findings.
Something like 59 percent of smartphone users research items on mobile before making an ecommerce buying decision, according to a Huffington Post report.
Shoppers are using mobile devices, particularly smartphones, to find products, locate product reviews, and comparison shop. Often, those shoppers will decide to make a purchase, be it in-store or online, based on what they find.
Mobile, then, is an important platform for product discovery. But actual content — in search, on retail sites, and in social media — is the deal maker.
Content Is the Deal Maker
As much as one-half of all Internet traffic comes from mobile devices. But, in a broad sense, all of those mobile shoppers are really after content in a broad sense.
The thing that helps a shopper discover a new and exciting product or brand is not the device, but rather the content that appears on the screen.
Insights, such as from Google’s Krueger, about how mobile devices are involved in purchase inspiration are really insights about how content impacts purchase behavior. It is content that is replacing the catalog and holiday window display. It is content that inspires the sale or closes the deal, if you will.
This has a few implications for online retail marketing.
First, social media — particularly when displayed on a mobile screen — influences purchase behavior.
eMarketer, using PwC data, reported that some 45 percent of 22,600 survey respondents said that reviews, comments, and shopper feedback found on social media sites had influenced their shopping behavior. What’s more about 44 percent of those respondents said that receiving a promotional offer (an ad) on social media had influenced shopping behavior.
When online retailers post content or simply buy ads on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and similar, those retail marketers are reaching shoppers.
Second, content marketing also seems to inspire shopping behavior.
“On YouTube, gift guides are a popular and growing trend during the holidays,” wrote Google Senior Product Manager Elizabeth Fabiani and Google’s Head of Trends and Insights, Allison Mooney, in a July 2016 article.
“Most of the time (70 percent), these videos are watched on mobile….[and] videos really do guide gift buying. In the consumer electronics category, for one, 68 percent of smartphone shoppers turn to YouTube for ideas about what to buy.”
YouTube videos are just one form of content and not everything that is true about a video gift guide on YouTube is generally true about content marketing. Nonetheless, it is an indication that content and, therefore content marketing, seems to influence what folks buy.
What’s more, smartphone users depend on search for product information and product related content. Fabiani and Mooney’s article noted, for example, that mobile searches for “best” products increased more than 50 percent from May 2015 to May 2016.
Those mobile shoppers were presumably looking to Google to help narrow down their shopping options. There are seemingly millions of books, scarves, or basketballs available for sale, and a shopper wants to know which one is best for her.
Thus, content that compares products may influence mobile shoppers, and online stores may benefit not just from publishing such content but also from promoting that content with mobile search ads.
Mobile devices are rapidly becoming the Internet platform of choice, and mobile-friendly content and ads may inspire shoppers to buy particular products from particular stores. Online retailers that offer inspirational content and ads for mobile-device uses may be able to improve sales and profit.