A flurry of research hitting in-boxes is heralding the mobile platform as marketing’s supernova. Mobile drove big growth at retail this year (particularly over Thanksgiving weekend) thanks to uber-connected consumers who opted to buy via smartphones and tablets. And, mobile is projected to be a big part of a growth in global ad spending. However, the hype on mobile is overshadowing something: All the social media activity that’s driving usage and making mobile devices a super-persistent presence in consumers’ lives. When you look at it from this perspective it changes the game. Focusing on the device is only half the story. You’ll get truly valuable insights to help fine-tune marketing plans by also looking at how consumers are acting on that device.
It’s well-established that mobile devices drove a holiday sales spike this year. Online shopping grew 24% YOY and racked up $4.6 billion in sales over Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and purchases made with mobile devices grew at an even faster rate of 64%; tallying up nearly $940 million in sales during this holiday shopping trifecta.
And it’s true, more consumers are using smartphones and tablets to research and shop. Rapid adoption of mobile devices has created a new breed of consumer: They’re high-performance, connected consumers who are always on, always connected and in perennial shopping mode. They’re born with Mario Andretti and Danica Patrick-like reflexes that allow them to intuitively use smartphones and tablets to deftly navigate an inextricably linked tangle of personal and commercial highways. They buy on the go and they often display their haul across their social graph. For this consumer, social media provides an instant water cooler. It’s often the connective tissue between device and conversion.
It’s no wonder ‘mobile’ is top of mind for marketers as they budget 2014 spending and plan how to reach these connected consumers. Global ad expenditures are expected to see sustained growth in the next three years, and mobile is thought to be the catalyst of this boost , projected to account for 36% of this new spending.
But behind all the mobile buzz? Social Media. One can’t really look at mobile as the sole driver of e-commerce growth without also looking at the real rocket fuel behind it: The flurry of social media posting, tweeting, pinning and photo-sharing that happened over Thanksgiving/Black Friday/Cyber Monday. It’s so obvious, and yet, social marketing’s impact on holiday sales so far has been overlooked, under-reported and dismissed as insignificant by a few big pundits.
It’s not just the devices in the hands of those connected consumers, it’s what they’re doing with them. Nearly 100 million US Internet users will log on to social networking sites via smartphones and a further 79.4 million will use tablets at least once per month in 2013. It follows, then, that it was the tweeted door busters and Facebook offers and Pinterest contest participants that lit up those smartphones and drove consumers to buy, not to mention the exponential knock-on effect from the social sharing and texting that spread word-of-mouth.
I tell marketers who are seeking to reach connected consumers via mobile marketing to first get a better understanding of consumers’ social activity and useage. Smartphone’s biggest users are also among the most prolific on social media . Those between 25 and 44 years old both trend highest when it comes to mobile useage and social media activity.
Social messages are often a brand’s first opportunity to touch a consumer (and often, for a long time, it’s that brand’s only touch point with that consumer). Social platforms – increasingly accessed via mobile – are great ways to engage with and talk to consumers. Social media makes the whole online shopping experience, well, social again. The most plugged-in consumers “go social” to ask their friends’ opinions on products or services, to get rewarded for spreading the word, to find a deal and then swipe and tap over to buy. They often share what they bought -- all without going into a store or using a PC or looking at a commercial email offer.
Marketers already know that consumers engaging with social media is a big activity on mobile devices. And yet, brands who are looking to optimize their results are focusing in the wrong places. True, responsive websites and mobile applications have an impact on sales -- but it’s the smart, effective use of social channels that provides an exponential impact.
So the question is: While brands spend time and money understanding the shopping habits of consumers from one screen to the next, why is there a lack of investment and focus in real social performance metrics?
The answer? A majority of marketers don't think it's possible to effectively track and measure social's impact on sales and conversions. And influencers in the marketing space aren't helping the case with claims that measuring social ROI is as futile as tracking unicorns.
The fact is, a lot of very smart marketers are uninformed on social media tracking. They're either writing off social as a qualitative, not-measureable effort in which they observe comments, and count up vanity metrics such as “likes” and follows, or they're spending lots of time cobbling together social data from multiple tools and making leaping, wrong-headed assumptions. That’s just wrong, considering the dollars being spent and the opportunities they’re losing to show ROI and optimize for more success.
Closed loop measurement tools, like the social media measurement tools we developed at awe.sm, can trace every part of the marketing funnel, from top line awareness and engagement down to conversion-land where real dollars and cents activity happens. These are tools designed for the social web, and with much more sophisticated abilities to see the whole picture than many of the measurement approaches that were built to measure static websites.
Mobile is proving to be a retail darling as a platform and a hot advertising medium. But social media is what’s getting consumers to the checkout. Designing social media measurement into the fabric of a campaign is what will earn marketers the pole position advantage in a pretty crowded and dynamic marketplace.
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