The Rise of M-Commerce
There’s no denying the rapid growth of mobile purchases within the last ten years. Since the launch of the iOS App Store in 2008, consumers slowly but surely adopted the concept of buying directly through mobile.
Fast forward almost 10 years, and there are now over 1.6 billion people using their phones to shop online globally (1). Thanks to smoother UX design, and ‘lifestyle’ apps such as Lyft, mobile purchases have generated almost two-thirds of all e-commerce sales in 2016(2).
With so many mobile transactions happening per day, social media giants such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest have all made attempts to capitalize, but have fallen short. However, within the past year, these apps have made significant strides to improve the way users discover products, ultimately shifting the shopper user experience and regaining attention of brands.
The Move from Buyable to Browsable
In 2014, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest rushed to add ‘Buy’ buttons to promoted posts. Despite multiple efforts to drive direct sales within the app, they’ve learned that converting ‘Likes’ into Purchases is not as easy as it seems.
Adobe reports that social media sites attributed a stagnant 1% share of sales during 2016’s holiday season, despite smartphones driving a total of 21% share of sales (3) – an overall dip from years prior.
The slow growth of Shop Now buttons could be traced back to its flawed user experience. The chances of having users swiping through their feed, stopping, and impulsively purchasing a product on the spot is very low. There’s a whole phase of research and consideration that occurs both on and offline before the final ‘adding to cart’ stage, which Shop Now buttons naturally disregard.
Research actually suggests that users are mainly leveraging platforms such as Instagram as a vehicle for product discovery rather than an e-commerce outlet (4). Due to the sporadic way consumers research and shop online, social media companies have shifted and begun reinventing the way users explore products on their platforms.
Tools for Discovery and Browsing
After years of development, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest have started to capitalize on their platform strength – telling immersive product stories at scale.
Facebook’s newest ad unit, ‘Collections’, is a prime example of training users to browse products via their newsfeed. Collections lets users explore products through a video, while simultaneously browsing more items in an expandable catalogue. After users tap an item to explore, they’re immediately driven to a retailer’s product page with the ability to add to cart – all while staying within the Facebook app.
Pinterest has also been busy innovating their shopper experience. Earlier this year, they introduced two new app features, Lens and Shop the Look.
With Pinterest Lens, you can snap a photo of any object to instantly generate a search for similar-looking items or related pins. The Lens AI incorporates machine learning and image recognition to best detect objects, and can even pin-point separate items within one photo.
‘Shop the Look’ allows retailers and brands to bring their editorial photos to life. Users can tap items within on a Shop the Look photo to prompt a carousel below the image to neatly display products that best match items in the image.
As consumers spend more time on and money through mobile devices, social networks will continue to invest resources in the hopes of making your newsfeed more browsable.
Connecting the Dots with Data
In addition to providing better user experiences, brands have found that shoppable ads can be a solid tool for driving
highly-qualified clicks to site.
This past May, Digitas worked with Facebook to launch the first Facebook Collections unit for the home appliances vertical. At the end of the campaign, the team found that the Collections unit drove the highest on-site engagement out of the entire campaign, resulting in 52% higher engagements than normal Facebook Link Ads.
If these results are any indication, it’s likely that Facebook users are warming up to the idea of browsing products within their newsfeeds, and are willing to adopt these ads as long as they’re deemed helpful during their purchase path.
Shoppable Social Finds its Place
The online purchase path is sporadic and hard to predict, but all signs are pointing to a mobile-first experience. Users are constantly bouncing from devices and social apps looking for reviews and better deals on their next purchase. Despite this barrier, social networks have made significant headway to make sure shopping via mobile is more captivating through more sophisticated advertising units.
With these recent updates, social networks are just beginning to find their place within the M-commerce funnel. Discovery and research are instrumental moments within the purchase decisions, and Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are all leading the charge by creating a more browsable feed.
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