What happens when you take two hot growth areas—Social Networks and Mobile–and combine them with good old fashioned shopping? You get a phenomenon people are just now beginning to understand: the convergence of Social, Mobile & Shopping—let’s call it SMS for short.
What’s the SMS convergence? It’s the increasing ability of shoppers to use social networks to inform their shopping experience, access information about products, and broadcast their product experiences – all in real time via their mobile phone.
Social Media Trends
- Social networking penetration is increasing. Facebook now has over 500 million users, growing its user base by +69% from 2009 to 2010.
- Consumers are spending more time with social networking. In the past 3 years, the average time spent has risen from 2 to 6 hours per week.
- Social networks are mass. There are now more people aged 50+ using social networks than people <50. They’re not just for students anymore—anyone can be reached thru social networks.
- Penetration is growing. Within 10 years, there will be as many mobile phones in use as there are people on the planet.
- Smartphones are taking over. Smartphones are growing disproportionately fast. It’s projected that by the end of 2011, more people in the U.S. will use Smartphones than standard cell phones.
- Usage is becoming more sophisticated. With more Smartphones, come more apps. The average Smartphone user has 22 apps versus only 10 for regular cell phones.
How Social Networks & Mobile Intersect
The stats above probably confirmed what you already knew: Social Networking and Mobile are high growth areas. What you may not have realized is this: Social networking and Mobile are increasingly intertwined. Specifically, social networking apps are:
- #1 on the iPhone
- #1 on the Blackberry
- #2 on Android phones
It’s easy to see where this is all going. Social networking on Mobile is going to get bigger, more sophisticated and more enabled over the next few years. And this has some interesting implications for shopping.
Enter Shopping – A Social and Information Driven Activity
Social networks and Mobile are ideally suited for shopping. Why?
First, shopping is a social experience. People love to shop, but they really love to shop with other people. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. Enter Social Networking on Mobile.
Second, shopping is about finding the right product at the right price. This requires information. Consumers can access the opinions of their friends and acquaintances as they shop. And they can get real time access to valuable information—pricing, quality, etc.– about products and services.
Third, people love to share their experiences with products and services. Going forward, consumers will be able to broadcast their own shopping experiences via mobile, to both friends and others, and in close to real time. Had a bad experience with the service desk? Consumers will tell everyone they know—before they leave the store.
5 Actions for Marketers
The SMS convergence has numerous implications for Marketing organizations. Here are 5 to think about:
- Brands must be open and transparent to win in this environment. As I wrote in a previous post, consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about your product and your company. The merging of Social and Mobile only accelerates this trend. Brands cannot afford to hide.
- Brands have an opportunity to improve their consumers shopping experience. Brands can now create apps and content that make their target consumers’ shopping experience better. Better could mean simpler, easier, more social, or any other improvement that’s relevant to their shopper.
- Brands must invest in creating Social CRM capabilities. Jeremiah Owyang has written extensively about the need for Marketing organizations to create social CRM capabilities. That is, to create a function to listen and engage with consumers in authentic dialogue about your brand.
- Brands can drive Social Shopping. Making the buying process part of a social event is increasingly feasible. Disney recently created a Facebook app which enabled friends to buy movie tickets for the same movie. This is a great example of social shopping.
- Brands should experiment with shopping based App advertising. The advent of Apple’s iAd system opens up a whole new advertising platform. This will create all kinds of new opportunities to advertise to consumers in context relevant ways. Imagine your target consumer walking into a store, snapping a photo of the UPC of your competitors’ product via a shopping app to learn more. Is this a place you might want to advertise?
SMS – Now or Later ?
SMS, like most changes, isn’t happening overnight. So, there’s always a tendency to say “it’s not big, let’s wait to see where it goes…” But the trends are clear and CMO’s need to pay special attention.
It would be wrong to suddenly shift huge amounts of your Marketing budget into a largely unproven set of opportunities. Yet, the most prudent CMO’s will invest in a measured approach to learning what works and what doesn’t, and ultimately learn how to win in this nascent but increasingly important space.