Remember a few years back, when online shopping reached a tipping point and simply became a standard part of the American holiday experience? Well this year, there are even more digitally driven shifts in the works, and you can bet that shoppers and sellers alike are going to notice.
Here are four to watch:1. Smart phones as the ultimate shopping tool
Smart phones, especially Apple’s dominant device, will be worth their weight in saffron this Christmas. Last November, iPhone users were lacking two vital resources: practical shopping applications and mobile-friendly review sites.
This time around, the iPhone is a veritable treasure trove of easy-to-navigate review hubs and apps like RedLaser, a $1.99 download that lets you scan product barcodes in stores to see whether you could find a better price elsewhere.
Another easy trick is to use Google’s mobile app to search for a specific product, then click “Shopping results for…” in your search results. You’ll get a simple, scrolling list of online prices. Similarly, Amazon’s app can help you see what you’d pay on their site for an in-store item.
The downside of all these great tools? Only 17% or so of
Americans are on smartphones, so if you’ve got one, get ready to be dragged on
just about every shopping excursion this year.
Social networks, especially Facebook, have been huge assets for popular retailers. But they pose one major problem: Selling something to your fans almost always requires sending them away from Facebook, something users rarely want to do.
To overcome this hurdle, companies need a reliable and secure way to sell products directly through Facebook.
The smart folks over at Resource Interactive say they’ve created the solution: “Off the Wall,” a customizable tool that lets companies sell stuff right from your Facebook feed.
From Resource’s Oct. 30 press release:
How Off the Wall works: A brand posts an item for purchase as a status update to its Facebook page. In turn, fans can purchase the product directly from their live feed, news feed or the brand’s wall. They can also share this status update with their friends and its ecommerce functionality is maintained wherever it appears in Facebook.
Lots of startups claim to have found the holy grail that
lets companies harvest big bucks directly through social media, but Resource is
no small player. Their client roster includes DSW, Victoria’s Secret, L.L. Bean
and many more.
So far, Resource is keeping mum about which of its clients will try out the Facebook sales tool in time for this holiday shopping season. If they’re smart, they all will.3. Increased value of peer reviews
One interesting fact about social media is that once you start using it, recommendations have an even stronger impact on your buying habits.
Check out these two stats, both plucked from the excellent collection over at BazaarVoice:
• Online social network users were three times more likely to trust their peers' opinions over advertising when making purchase decisions. ("Social Networking Sites: Defining Advertising Opportunities in a Competitive Landscape," JupiterResearch, March 2007)
• Two thirds of UK social networkers (66%) are more likely to buy a product as a result of a recommendation, compared to 52 per cent of non-social networkers. (Royal Mail's Home Shopping Tracker Study, September 2007)
These stats are even more important in 2009 than when they were discovered two years ago. Why? Because this was the year that social media truly went mainstream, with millions of Americans from all walks of life finally adopting social media as a standard part of daily life.
More socially savvy shoppers this season means we’ll see an
even bigger impact from consumer reviews — or I should say, we’ll see a bigger
impact from retailers who find ways to better incorporate reviews into their
• One small e-retailer, AlpacaDirect.com, found that letting customers post reviews directly onto the site led to a 23% increase in sales on reviewed items.
• Customers who browse “Top Rated Products” pages spent 19% more per order on Bass Pro Shops’ site and 63% more per order from PETCO, according to data provided by the retailers.
• Another PETCO number: allowing shoppers to sort products within a category by customer rating led to a sales increase of 41% per shopper.
Obviously, any retailers who undervalue customer reviews
this holiday season do so at their own peril.
In a 2006 survey by RightNow Technologies, respondents were
asked how they would react to a bad customer experience. 29% said they would
swear, and 21% said they would shout.
This year, the same survey found that only 20% would cuss, and 14% would shout.
Is the world getting to be a more peaceful and tolerant
place? Of course not. “Nowadays,” the survey findings report, “consumers are taking their anger and
acting on it via word of mouth and social channels.
That’s right. They’re not yelling at the sales guy because they know it would be more productive to go blog about how much they hate you as a company. What a magical time of year!
Facebook photo credit: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid
Screaming photo credit: HeyThereSpaceman on Flickr