Behind the Shopping Scenes: Peek Into the Data on Customer Behavior
Over the past two years, we've examined the activity of hundreds of millions of global shoppers to identify trends and measure the pace of change in digital commerce. Using this data, we produce a quarterly shopping index that describes consumer engagement with retailers. The most striking feature of the data — beyond digital commerce's continued growth — is the constant shift in shopper behavior as purchase schedules and tools change.
March Toward Mobile Dominance
One well-documented shift is the rise of mobile. The migration to mobile has made shopper/brand engagement volatile in terms of time and place. Just a few short years ago, any mobile experience was a nice frill, but not really implicit to a company's success. Traffic from mobile used to barely crack double-digits, and only a few percent of orders came from mobile phones. Now, phones drive 47 percent of traffic and 27 percent of global orders, with even higher figures in certain segments. At this point, mobile is not just a mandate — it’s imperative that retailers offer a great experience on mobile.
However, even these numbers pale in comparison to what we expect to happen in the next 12 months to 15 months. Our models show that mobile traffic share will soar past 60 percent and that shoppers will place more orders on smartphones than on computers or tablets by the end of 2017. Mobile-first is in the rearview mirror; a mobile-only world for digital commerce is what's in the future.
As further evidence of this mobile revolution, conversion rates on smartphones are increasing. Over the past few years, shoppers not only visited retailers’ mobile sites more often, but they also bought more frequently as well. Purchase intent within mobile interactions has also increased. Though purchase intent on mobile still trails that on desktop (14 percent and 18 percent, respectively), it's increasing quickly. Mobile purchase intent is up 8 percent year-over-year. In particular, mobile shoppers are creating many more carts (70 percent more in the first quarter of 2016 year-over-year) and starting more checkouts than ever before.
Social Has Emerged
After years of talking about the impact of social media on commerce, the share of traffic is finally tangible, reflecting another long-awaited change in shopper behavior. In this year's second quarter, social media drove nearly 3 percent of digital commerce traffic. The impact was even larger on smartphones, where social media accounted for 4 percent of all traffic. The rate of social media growth is outpacing the early days of mobile growth, which serves as a harbinger for where social media may rank in the marketing world in just a few short years.
Social media also portends the next development in shopping: imparting commerce onto any setting and allowing shoppers to buy at the point of attraction. Pinterest’s Buyable Pins are a great example of this "distributed commerce," and other social and messaging channels are following suit. This, of course, begs the question: When will those "Buy" buttons land in email and marketing channels that carry a significant share of traffic?
As consumer behavior and preferences continue to change, retailers should aim to please and make the shopping experience as simple and seamless as possible. Here are some key tactics to consider in order to compete in the ever-changing retail environment:
- Accelerate mobile conversion by implementing popular wallets. While friction lingers in the buying process, specifically in the bottom of the funnel, payment accelerators like Apple Pay and PayPal One Touch promise to ease the checkout burden for customers. Other wallet providers, like Android Pay and Samsung Pay, are set to benefit from this increased attention on transaction logistics.
- Make the mobile cart … mobile. You may not need a wish list, but you do need to make sure that the shopper can go back to edit their cart on any device. Use email and retargeting as marketing intermediaries to deliver the cart from one device to another.
- Break out. Beyond your own mobile site, position your brand in the prevailing social and messaging channels. Entering the shopper’s native setting can help attract and convert shoppers with increased commerce distribution.
- Consider your physical presence. Even traditionally pure-play digital retailers are thinking about innovative ways to engage consumers. To make up for the disadvantages of minimal inventory, pop-up shops now allow consumers to touch and feel the brand without the responsibilities and costs of a traditional store footprint and a deep stock room.
The data says it all. We’re on the path to mobile-only digital engagement. Don’t sell your brand short — make the most of every touchpoint by being where your shoppers are and will be.
Rick Kenney is Salesforce Commerce Cloud Head of Consumer Insights and a thought leader on data-driven digital commerce trends. He pioneered Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s benchmarking practice, which identifies growth opportunities for clients. He spent four years in the organization’s Retail Practice Group, serving as Director of Strategic Initiatives and Regional Director of Customer Success. Rick joined Salesforce Commerce Cloud from e-Dialog (now ebay Enterprise) where he developed two breakthrough contact strategy methodologies: the Activity Matrix and MOE: Moments of Engagement. Rick holds dual BS degrees from Boston College and an MBA from Babson College.