In March 2012, marketing agency Cargo and Inc. Magazine found the majority (52%) of US small-business owners felt companies did not market to them effectively. Along similar lines, 45% said companies made little effort to understand their business and 43% said B2B marketers did not understand their individual needs as small-business owners.
Part of the problem may be that the small-business audience is widely diverse. It comprises business and service owners in industries across consulting, retail, food service, agriculture, technology and more. And even at the industry level, small-business owners’ needs are highly individualized and easily reprioritized as owners juggle their marketing, operations, sales and financial responsibilities.
“When you look at the core needs and challenges that [small] business owners are facing, they’re time-starved, and they’re not the type of people sitting in a building behind a computer all day,” said American Express OPEN’s Scott Roen, vice president of digital marketing and innovation, in an April 2012 interview with eMarketer. “They’re out front, working with their customers and employees, so they’re inherently mobile in nature.”
Small-business owners’ proclivity for mobile devices such as laptops and smartphones could prove valuable for B2B marketers looking to connect with this audience. Inc. Magazine and Cargo found the vast majority (91%) of US small-business owners placed importance on wireless communications and smartphones for their business—a likely indicator of their vital daily use. Tablets were also important to 64% of respondents.
The importance of these devices for US small-business owners coincides with SMBs’ adoption of smartphones and tablets. In April 2012, Spiceworks, an online SMB IT solution provider and professional community, found that 96% of SMB IT professionals worldwide said their company purchased smartphones for their employees. Sixty-six percent said the same of tablets.
Marketers looking to reach small-business owners on these mobile devices might consider starting with first adapting their mobile web presence for Apple OS-based devices: The vast majority of tablets purchased for employees were iPads (79%), followed by Android devices (39%). In addition, 64% said they bought the iPhone/iOS for employees, followed in popularity by Android smartphones (56%) and BlackBerrys (41%).
Best Buy Co. Inc. has found its more valuable customers are ones who don’t just visit the e-commerce site or the bricks-and-mortar store. They also shop using their smartphones and tablets.
How valuable are these customers? The multichannel Best Buy consumer who uses a mobile device makes 15% more e-commerce purchases than the non-mobile consumer, said Chris Moroz, Best Buy associate manager for digital analytics. And, for in-store purchases, the mobile Best Buy consumer is 25% more valuable.
Speaking at the Adobe Digital Summit 2012 in Salt Lake City, Moroz said Best Buy calculated these figures by measuring three sets of data. One was connecting the BestBuy.com visitor data to its database of registered customers. Another was the result of surveys sent to e-commerce visitors who filled their shopping carts, but abandoned the sale. The third was a survey at the point of sale about the consumer’s shopping experience. The data then was screened through digital analytics software from Adobe Systems Inc.
“We found that on any given day a BestBuy.com visitor is more likely to purchase in-store,” Moroz said. Of consumers using a mobile device to visit Best Buy’s m-commerce site, one-fourth were found to make an in-store purchase within two weeks of their visit, he said.
Best Buy, incidentally, fared best in a recent survey by market research firm ClickIQ of the behavior of consumers using smartphones in stores.
To find out what happened after the in-store research was complete, survey respondents were asked to state where they eventually purchased the product they were researching. Best Buy did the best job of retaining the sale. 35% of those that researched at Best Buy ended up purchasing at the Best Buy store with another 14% purchasing at BestBuy.com. However, 21% purchased the product from Amazon.com. The rest did not purchase.
At the conference, Moroz said the next step for Best Buy is to automate much of the data collection process and to get more data about how consumers use Best Buy’s smartphone apps. “The mobile-savvy customer needs to be heard,” he said.
Lynn Lanphier, director, digital analytics, Best Buy Co. Inc., will speak this June at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in Chicago in a session titled “The new age of analytics: Creating a data strategy that leads to increased sales.” And learn more about the Mobile Workshop at IRCE 2012.
Last week, mobile enthusiasts congregated in Barcelona to participate in the annual Mobile World Congress—a celebration of the current state of mobile and its promising future.
The event is comprised of a thought-leadership conference with keynote speakers and panel discussions, a mobile technology exhibition, the Global Mobile Awards, and the newly added mPowered Brands—a program where global marketers and agencies share mobile marketing knowledge.
It’s no surprise that they added this program to the agenda, seeing as though mobile is now a force to be reckoned with in the marketing realm.
mPowered Brands seems like a great opportunity for the marketing professionals lucky enough to be involved. It focuses on accelerating marketers’ use of mobile as a marketing medium and gives professionals across the mobile marketing ecosystem the opportunity to gain practical insight and knowledge from some of the most innovative mobile marketing companies today, such as McCann Worldgroup and Nielsen.
Aside from the mobile marketing component of the event, the keynote speaker series featured a hefty lineup of innovative speakers that hold some degree of clout in the mobile industry. Speakers included Ralph de la Vega, President & CEO of AT&T Mobility, John Donahoe, President and CEO of eBay, and Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, among many others.
Another cool part of the Mobile World Congress is the exhibition, where mobile aficionados can sneak a peek at the new phones, tablets, apps, accessories, and other emerging mobile technologies.
About 1,500 different companies showcased their products, and over 12,500 app developers participated in App Planet, which focused on the latest technology within the apps industry. The App Planet exhibition was hosted by big players like BlackBerry, IBM, IMGA, Nokia, Samsung and WIP.
The event also included forums and seminars related to mobile industry topics such as augmented reality, mobile cloud, mobile security, mobile spam, mobile privacy, and more.
The vast amount of information and insight shared at Mobile World Congress 2012 would certainly be beneficial for mobile professionals across the globe. From what I can gather, the event seemed like a great resource for experts in the mobile industry to educate themselves and share their knowledge and expertise with others.
Research shows that shoppers are mobile–this article featured on eMarketer explains how consumers are turning to mobile to do product research before purchasing items in-store.
While consumer usage of smartphone and tablet devices for shopping purposes is on the rise, the devices’ place in the purchase path is varied. According to several pieces of research by Google, ForeSee Results and Nielsen, shoppers may start in the mobile channel for product research but then purchase in-store. They also may use mobile for product research on the go, then later purchase online on a PC or tablet.
Nielsen’s Q3–Q4 2011 “US Digital Consumer Report” indicates that 29% of smartphone owners use their phone for shopping-related activities. The top mobile shopping activities include in-store price comparisons (38%), browsing products through the mobile web or apps (38%), and reading online product reviews (32%).
A 2011 post-holiday shopping study by Google and Ipsos OTX also depicts consumers using their smartphones at many different points in the purchase path. For instance, 46% of smartphone users who used their mobile device for holiday shopping said they researched an item on their smartphone then went to a store to make their purchase. And 37% said they researched an item on their smartphone then made their purchase online on a computer. Holiday shopping data indicates that no matter the purchase channel, mobile devices are likely to play a role in a mobile user’s purchase process.
The Google study also shows that 41% of smartphone users researched with their mobile device and went on to actually purchase on the smartphone. That data point is higher than in some other mobile commerce studies. For example, a study released in January 2012 by customer experience management firm ForeSee indicates that during the 2011 holiday season only 15% of online shoppers used their phones to make purchases. The phone was most commonly used as a research and price comparison tool. However, Google/Ipsos OTX studied only smartphone owners while ForeSee looked at online shoppers as a whole, a group that includes many feature phone owners as well.
Whether a consumer makes a purchase via mobile or elsewhere, Google’s industry director for retail, Todd Pollak, told eMarketer that retailers need to improve the way they connect the mobile experience with the in-store or web-based shopping experience.
“You would think retailers would be hugely invested in ensuring you’d have an optimized experience on the mobile device, as well as trying to understand how people use it,” he said. “But consumers are way ahead of retailers in terms of their investment in mobile and how that plays into the purchase process.”
Although the path to purchase may appear unclear as consumers conduct the shopping process across multiple channels, Pollak encouraged mobile marketers to think about factors such as a consumer’s distance from a store and the days and times when mobile usage spikes. For example, tablet usage peaks during after-work hours and smartphone usage spikes during weekend days. Connecting and strategizing based on those statistics will help mobile marketers provide more targeted and personalized campaigns akin to the marketing experiences consumers are accustomed to on the web.
Online holiday shopping is expected to surpass the record levels reached in 2010, with industry experts predicting mobile purchases, deals and coupons to be a large part of the shopping experience.
Online holiday shopping reached record levels in 2010. And e-commerce spending is up this year. All signs point to consumers spending even more online this holiday season. I sat down with executives from Google, eBay, PayPal and ShopKick to discuss the trends that are expected to emerge in the e-commerce space over the next few months. They center around mobile, tablets, and deals.
PayPal has more than doubled its mobile payments volume since the 2010 holiday shopping season, and we haven’t even hit the thick of this year’s rush. eBay is projecting $5 billion in mobile payments volume in 2010 and this number could increase in the next few months. And Google projects that 15 percent of total search on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving and one of the biggest shopping days of the year) will come from mobile devices. Tablet devices are now a part of the online shopping experience and retailers are taking note. Clearly, all signs point to the fact that this could be the breakout year for mobile shopping.
Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
All of the companies I spoke to unanimously agreed that this would be the year of mobile for the holiday shopping season. Steve Yankovich, head of eBay’s mobile business operations and development, says he expects this to be the biggest year for mobile sales for eBay yet. eBay has said that the company expects to see $5 billion in gross merchandise volume in 2011, and this will be partly buoyed by a strong mobile presence in November and December.
PayPal’s Senior Director for Mobile, Laura Chambers, echoes Yankovich’s forecasts and says that merchants are even preparing for the onslaught of traffic to their mobile sites. A number of big retailers, such as Armani Exchange, Guess and The Limited have recently put PayPal’s mobile express checkout as an option for payments on their mobile sites as a way to help the conversion process. “We are seeing strong investments by online retailers for mobile shopping this year,” she says.
Chambers says that last year, the peak day for mobile payments for PayPal was December 12, with $4.7 million in mobile payments volume. Now PayPal is seeing $10 million in mobile payments per day, and we haven’t even officially hit the holiday shopping period. Clearly, the mobile payments numbers could even triple from last year to this year.
While many consumers may shop on mobile for their holiday purchases, the usage of product search, barcode scanning, and other informative apps will also play a big part in this year’s mobile shopping. eBay’s RedLaser barcode scanning apps have seen scans go up 50 percent over the past year. If you aren’t familiar with how it works, RedLaser will scan the barcode of a physical product and show you where you can buy it on eBay’s properties and where it is available in local store locations around you (via Milo) and for how much. The app has been updated with PayPal functionality so that users can actually buy the product directly from the app.
Another shopping app developer who has high hopes for mobile this holiday season is ShopKick. Co-founder Cyriac Roeding says that this year will be the year of mobile for physical shopping. For background, Shopkick automatically recognizes when someone with the free Android or iPhone app on their phone walks into a store. Once a Shopkick Signal is detected, the app delivers reward points called “kickbucks” to the user for walking into a retail store, trying on clothes, scanning a barcode and other actions. Kickbucks can then be redeemed across all partner stores for gift card rewards or for Facebook Credits. User can also receive special discounts on specific products at partners stores like Macy’s, Best Buy or Target.
Roeding explains that the cell phone is the only interactive platform you carry with you in a physical store, and retailers are looking to use the platform to help drive transactions. Clearly, a mobile rewards app that offers in-store discounts can help do this. “The internet has caused brick and mortar retailers more trouble than benefit over the past fifteen years. Now retailers are catching on to how the internet can help retailers—that’s where mobile comes in.”
Sameer Samat, VP of Product Management for Google Commerce, tells me that the search giant is seeing a growing number of users are making buying decisions using their mobile phone. “We are definitely seeing m-commerce conversions growing and becoming bigger over time,” he says. “But users are also using their mobile phone to search for products and find local availability.”
Samat says that Google has seen a 200 percent growth in mobile product search usage and Google Shopper app downloads over the past year. Shopper, which is available for iOS and Android, allows you to find product prices, reviews, specs, local inventory of products at nearby stores, and more.
As we mentioned above, Google is forecasting that 15 percent of total search on Black Friday. will come from mobile. “There’s no doubt that users are now making buying decisions using their mobile phone,” says Samat. “And we are seeing m-commerce conversions growing and becoming bigger over time.”
As tablets have grown to be the go-to browsing device, the iPad, and other devices are also becoming a way to shop. And retailers are catching on to this trend. According to a National Retail Federation study, 20 percent of retailers have invested in tablet device apps this holiday season.
With this in mind, Google debuted Catalogs in August, an app for tablet devices that includes 200 catalogs from major brands including Anthropologie, Bare Escentuals, Bergdorf Goodman, Crate and Barrel, L.L. Bean, Lands’ End, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Pottery Barn, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sephora, Sundance, Tea Collection, Urban Outfitters and Williams-Sonoma.
The app is more than just a browsing experience. When consumers find an item they’d like to purchase, they can tap to find it in a store nearby or tap “Buy on Website” to visit the merchant online.
Google’s Samat says that “the tablet is the ultimate leanback experience and we see that playing a big role in holiday shopping as a replacement for the mail order catalogs you used to browse through.”
PayPal calls it ‘couch commerce’ and believes that tablet commerce will have a record year. PayPal recently reported that consumers who own both a tablet and a smartphone are significantly more likely (63%) to indicate increased overall spending on mobile purchases, versus owners of smartphones only (29%). Owners of both a tablet and a smartphone buy nearly twice as often as those who only have smartphones and more than 40% of dual owners made more than 20 mobile purchases over the past year, compared to only 12% of smartphone-only owners.
Forrester just released a report predicting a 15 percent increase in online shopping sales this year to nearly $60 billion, partly due to the increase in consumer-use of tablet computers for shopping.
Beyond Black Friday And Cyber Monday
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are historically the top-high-grossing online shopping days during the holiday season. But execs expect to see high volumes of online shopping on other days thanks to an increase in mobile shopping and deals.
Yankovitch tells me that eBay expects revenue numbers to be well over numbers that eBay saw last year for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but expects to see more activity at times when people aren’t traditionally shopping.
The day of Thanksgiving is one of those days, says Chambers. Because people will have their phone everywhere (including at the table), consumers are expected to make purchases on the fly, especially on Thanksgiving evening. In fact, PayPal is predicting that after dinner on Thanksgiving Day will be the first mobile shopping spike this holiday season.
Another popular day has been the second Sunday in December, which is one of the last days where people feel confident that items will be shipped in times for the holiday. And Chambers says across the board, Sunday is the biggest day for mobile shopping generally.
There’s no doubt that deals, coupons and discounts will be a large part of the online holiday shopping experience, especially with the current state of the economy. According to the recent Forrester report, 58 percent of Americans say they are more price-conscious today than they were a year ago and nearly half believe they find better values online.
“I really expect consumers to be deal hunting this season,” explains Chambers. She says that PayPal, which has historically offered special deals for the holiday shopping season, will be bulking up on more consumer deals this holiday season.
Samat says that Google has always seen a spike for queries like deals, coupons, and sales during the holiday time and fully expects to see an increase this year. “The consumer desire for a better deal will help give certain product decision tools a big bump,” he explains. “People may take more time this year to find the best possible price.”
Deals could also include lucrative holiday shipping offers. In 2010, 45 of the top 50 online retailers offered some sort of promotional deal between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, most of which were a type of shipping promotion. And in 2011, Shop.org anticipates that a record 92.5% of online retailers will offer free shipping and not just as a Cyber Monday promotion.
Clearly, there’s plenty of optimism from retailers, and tech companies regarding online spending and shopping this holiday season. And this holiday season is somewhat unique considering the big bet that retailers are making on newer technologies, such as mobile, geo-location, tablets, local product search and more. The big question is how consumers will react to and engage with these technologies over the next several weeks. It could be a very mobile Christmas.