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Hat tip to Kiss metrics for putting together this clear and concise infographic about mobile’s impact on B2C commerce in 2012 and near future.

Here are some key takeaways:

1. Velocity of adoption

Though according to allthingsd.com, only about 20% of all web traffic in the US originated from a mobile device (smart phone or tablet) in 2012, Gartner expects that over 50% of web traffic in 2013 will shift to smartphones and tablets. If both allthingsd.com’s and Gartner’s numbers are correct, that would be a pretty significant shift, especially given the sudden acceleration of that change.

Relevance: Whether Gartner is reading more into the web-enabled device mobile-to-computer curve or not (see infographic above), the shift to devices is coming. It doesn’t really matter if that change happens in 2013, 2014 or 2015: It will happen. Consumers are increasingly likely to search for, find, discover and access your website from a mobile device than from a laptop or desktop PC. Even if that number only increases to 35% in 2013, that is 35% of your potential market. How much is that worth to your business? How many consumers are you potentially turning off or not properly converting by pursuing a digital strategy that is better suited to work in a 2010 digital environment than a 2013 digital environment?

Fix: Companies currently thinking of and designing their brands’ digital experiences and/or e-commerce sites primarily for laptop and desktop users need to adjust their strategy asap. The web is no longer about computers. And we aren’t just talking about website design but search, purpose/utility, UX/UI, e-commerce and social features.

2. 2011-2013: Mobile Sales Explode

Speaking of e-commerce, key indicators like Black Friday sales show an increase of 40% in online purchases made from a mobile device between 2011 to 2012. The number of online shoppers using mobile devices to make a purchase on Black Friday increased by 166% between 2011 and 2012. Paypal also reported a 190% increase in mobile payment volume between 2011 and 2012.

Relevance: Consumers aren’t only accessing websites from mobile devices with greater frequency and in greater volume, they are also becoming increasingly comfortable making purchases from their mobile devices as well. If you are not actively working to make your products easy to purchase via mobile devices, you are leaving money on the table. E-commerce is now indivisible from mobile commerce. What’s your strategy?

Fix: You basically have two options to make this work. The first is to create simple, painless, even fun mobile shopping purchasing experiences for your customers (see Nespresso example below), or you can work with key retailers to ensure that they create simple, painless, even fun mobile shopping and purchasing experiences for your (their) customers. Two examples:

a) Direct-to-consumer sales: Nespresso.

Nespresso sells espresso machines and espresso capsules/pods for those machines. Though every Nespresso product can also be purchased via Nespresso’s website, the company also created a mobile/tablet app that allows customers to order items (especially the capsules) on the fly. The process is quick and easy and is a lot quicker than opening up a browser, looking for a website, navigating through it to find the right page and finally order products.

b) Distribution model: Amazon

Amazon’s web experience is already pretty stellar but their app also allows shoppers to scan bar codes, search for a product by snapping a photograph of it, and so on. Everything about Amazon is geared towards ironing out hurdles between the search/shopping phase of the digital experience and the purchase/order phase of the digital experience. In addition, Amazon has been known to experiment with themed, seasonal mobile and tablet apps like the Santa App they launched in December 2011 (see below) to help children help tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas.

3. Adjusting expectations

44% of mobile app users who will ultimately make in-app purchases take 10 visits to finally take that step. 33% will make a purchase between their second and ninth visit. 22% will become customers after using your app only once. 22% isn’t bad, but remember not to try and set unrealistic goals for your digital team. And remember to design your app around realistic consumer behaviors and not in opposition to them.

Relevance: If your mobile app doesn’t enable and drive some kind of transaction, you probably haven’t designed it with the right objectives in mind.  Also, if your mobile app doesn’t make your customers’ shopping experience easier or better than it was before you launched the app, then it probably doesn’t offer enough value to be effective. Don’t just focus on what you hope customers will do but on why they should want to do it in the first place.

Fix: Don’t create an app just “to be in mobile.” Create an app that improves your customers’ lives in some way and/or solves a problem for them. If you are a retailer, it could simplify the shopping/purchasing/ordering process. If you are a utility, it could help customers pay their bills, browse services they don’t currently know, manage their utility usage, etc. If you are an insurance company, it might (in addition to scheduling payments) provide tips, real-time assistance and even file claims. (Think about car accidents, unexpected visits to the emergency room, etc.).

Note: Having a presence on social media channels can play a crucial part in the process of value creation we just outline. Listening to your customers (and your competitor’s customers) with the help of digital monitoring tools (yes, like Tickr) can help you identify pain points/areas of improvement. These could be turned into your mobile app’s key value-add features and make the difference between your app just being there and your app being a commercial success. Ideally, your presence on social channels also drives a healthy dialog between your company and your customers (don’t just listen to what they’re saying: also respond, ask for their advice, acknowledge their contribution to their process and reward them for their help), but even if you haven’t built that type of social practice yet, active listening will make a world of difference in your app’s ideation process. Don’t just guess. Go find out. It’s easy to do now. All you need are the right tools.

That’s it for today. We hope this post was helpful. And if you aren’t using Tickr Command Center yet, check out what we can do for you here.

You can also come say hello on Facebook and Twitter. We won’t spam you with useless marketing content. Scout’s honor.

Cheers,

The Tickr Team.

Don’t get any ideas. We don’t actually have a crystal ball in the office. Well… there’s the magic eight-ball and it’s never been wrong, but a crystal ball, no. Not yet at least. But as we have begun to find out, combining a few pairs of eyes, a little curiosity and some solid monitoring software is kind of the next best thing. Over the last few months, we have been looking at technology, culture and business trends to see what business wanted, what consumers wanted, where technology was and who was working on what, and we have come up with a few predictions for where things seem to be headed in the world of digital over the course of the next twelve months. Here are five that we feel pretty strongly about:

1. Mobile gets even bigger.

The trend has been pointing to an increasing shift from desktop internet access to mobile internet access for years now. This will not change in 2013. A few bits of relevant data:

A year ago, ebay bet big on mobile. The result: Roughly $10B in mobile revenue in 2012 (more than double what it was in 2011). That’s a purchase every 2 seconds. The company plans to continue to create mobile-specific transaction vehicles and content to make it even easier for sellers and buyers to use mobile devices. Mobile now also drives 22% of QVC’s digital sales. If you are not continuously working on making it easier for your customers to transact with you (or each other) via mobile devices, you need to. (Even if you are a small brick & mortar retailer, take a serious look at the possibility of enabling mobile checkouts.)

Of all searches on the web, roughly 30% now come from mobile devices. According to a BIA/Kelsey report, mobile searches will continue to catch up to desktop searches, generating 27.8 billion more queries by 2016. Even now (still at about 30%), this trend is especially important for brick & mortar businesses as the majority of mobile searches are local. Restaurants, bakeries, hardware stores, florists and other specialty retailers, take note.

Mobile paths to purchase are hot. A 2012 study by Telmetrics and mobile ad network xAd suggests that roughly 50% of mobile search queries in travel, restaurants and automotive verticals result in some kind of transaction. The number is highest for restaurants (85%), followed by automotive (51%), with travel lagging in third but at a no less impressive 46%. As stated earlier, the study also notes that local searches tend to have higher conversion rates.

If your digital strategy is not yet focused on mobile, time to change that.

Bonus: you can find pretty much every relevant 2012 mobile statistic here.

2. Apps take a bite out of the “old” web.

As tablets and other mobile devices are increasingly becoming our web interfaces of choice, apps are redefining how we think of digital access and web experiences. The “web” is quickly moving away from websites and turning to apps. While this does not signal the death of websites, businesses will have to think very seriously about how consumers are now accessing digital content, and what their expectations are in terms of digital experiences.

Some stats: There were 45.6 billion mobile app downloads made this year, nearly double the 25 billion downloads in 2011. Over six years, the progression looks like this:

2011: 24.9 billion

2012: 45.6 billion

2013: 81.4 billion

2014: 131.7 billion

2015: 205.3 billion

2016: 309.6 billion

Just as companies found themselves adding Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and Youtube channels to their digital footprints four years ago, apps are cementing themselves as the new digital interaction frontier. Successful brands will continue to create a variety of digital experiences based on the types of interfaces their customers (and potential customers) use, and apps will become the increasingly crucial gateways between them and their markets.

3. Social media continues to be a mess of confusion for businesses, but… insights.

Confusion about how to properly use social channels to grow consumer communities, increase meaningful engagement, drive new business and increase brand loyalty will still plague organizations focused more on traffic and likes than on actually changing consumer attitudes and behaviors. Social platforms like Facebook, Google+, Instagram and Twitter will continue to struggle with their revenue models and long term value to users. Measuring success (including but not limited to ROI) will continue to mix sensible, business-focused data points and social media guru-driven nonsensical value equivalency equations and ROI calculators.

There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel: digital intelligence tool will make it easier to dig through social channels for consumer insights and paths of opportunity. By combining digital monitoring tools and a new generation of social channel-facing CRM solutions, brands with the will to derive more pertinent insights from specific consumers and their target markets at large will be able to do so faster and cheaper than ever before. Data analysts and consumer insights specialists will increasingly see their disciplines merge as their tools become more powerful.

4. Digital mission control centers to the rescue!

With an ever increasing need for real time market data and insights from Customer Support, Marketing, PR, Business Development, Sales, and other business functions, expect to see greater investments in digital infrastructure. Major brands and the agencies that serve them have already begun to build digital mission control centers that allow them to keep tabs on a variety of channels (many of them social) and track mentions of their brands and products, monitor shifts in perception (positive or negative), track the success of specific marketing and advertising campaigns, monitor consumers’ reactions to a product launch and correlate that data to sales numbers in real time, prevent (or manage) PR crises, conduct market research, and so on.

These mission control centers will vary in size and complexity, but the trend towards creating multi-screen environments for project management teams is accelerating and for good reason: the complexity of digital channels demands new solutions and a new approach to real-time information management. Don’t worry though. This new complexity is balanced by a new generation of digital monitoring, management and visualization tools that make it easier than ever for companies to manage campaigns and workflows and organize themselves around data.

(Speaking of that, we will be releasing a pretty hot new product very soon, so stay tuned. We’re pretty sure that you’re going to like it!)

5. Big brother gets pushed out by big mother.

We’ve all heard about big brother. Looking at the amount of information collected on us each day by search engines, social media platforms and even our mobile devices, it’s easy to start feeling as if our privacy is being incessantly invaded. Many consumers have already begun to push back against digital intrusion, or at the very least, distrust it. Well, the flip side of the privacy coin may just be the concept of big mother.

Unlike big brother, big mother is not interested in exploiting your data. Big Mother has your best interest in mind. Her main concern is to analyze your tastes and habits so she can better understand and predict your needs. If you are familiar with Apple’s digital assistant, think of a more focused and insights-driven Siri. So how does big mother look on the consumer side of the digital divide? For starters, she shields you from ads you don’t want to see and instead makes ads that are both time and topic-relevant visible to you. She allows you to control the degree to which you want your digital experiences to be interrupted by commercial messages. (For instance, you may want to turn off targeted ads and special offers while you are at work, but turn them on while you are out shopping.) She also allows you to be more or less open to local ads and offers where and when you want to be. Big mother is essentially an intelligent filter whose degree of initiative you can control. “It’s almost lunch time and I want to eat someplace new today” becomes a prompt for action driven by big mother’s insights about your tastes, the time of day, your spending habits and your surroundings.

On the business side of big mother, what you have is data. If you are a pizza restaurant, big mother can let you know that right this minute, 130 people who like to eat pizza twice per week are within five blocks of your location, and that 25 of them have their local notifications turned on. For a small fee, you can choose to push an ad or an offer their way through a social channel or SMS. This push notification will not come across as spam since those 25 individuals have made themselves open to them. If, like mobile search, 85% of passive prompts from a big mother-enabled device result in a transaction, an investment of a few dollars could result in significant net new revenue and potentially a whole new set of new customers.

This organic approach to real-time, predictive marketing works because consumers are in control of it. Remember “permission marketing?” This uses mobile devices to make it a reality. It also eliminates spam and scattershot targeting (which is no kind of targeting at all), cuts down on ad spend waste, increases conversions, and does it all without betraying consumer trust. Side benefits: increased potential for social discovery, more opportunities for word-of-mouth recommendations (digital and otherwise), facilitates (and relies on) mobile payments, and above all, saves consumers time. Done well, the experience itself will be fun and cool.

The idea behind big mother is to create value for both consumers and businesses. It’s to give everyone more of what they want and less of what they don’t. By combining consumer data, social data and mobile functionality, big mother is will begin to become a reality in 2013. The first company to successfully create a slick, user-friendly interface, the connective tissue that makes it work across an ecosystem of digital channels and the marketplace that makes it all possible will literally revolutionize digital marketing and mobile commerce. It may be premature to expect something like before December 31, 2013, but as the conditions are right (the technology is available and there is a real revenue model attached to it), we could very well see the first versions of a big mother app turn up sometime in 2013. We’re crossing our fingers.

There’s a lot more exciting stuff on the calendar for 2013, but we’ll leave it at that for now. Happy 2013, everyone!

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Last week, Mashable’s Lauren Indvik published an articled based on a study by Forrester Research which states that only 1% of online purchases are driven by social media. (You can purchase the full report for $499 here.) The piece’s title, naturally, was “Social media Influences Less than 1% of Online Purchases. [STUDY]

If you find that statistic surprising, don’t worry. Your gut feeling isn’t leading you astray. We’ll come back to that. First though, let’s dive a little deeper into some of the claims made in the piece:

“Ecommerce businesses should concentrate more of their efforts on traditional online marketing tactics like search and e-mail than social media. That’s the conclusion of a Forrester study released Tuesday, which examined 77,000 online transactions made between April 1 and April 14. The study found that less than 1% of them could be traced back to social networks like Facebook or Pinterest.

Determining how web activity influences purchases is tricky; although many often credit the last touchpoint for a sale, Forrester found that half of repeat customers and a third of new customers touch multiple touchpoints prior to a purchase. As such, certain funnels, like display advertising and e-mail, may be undervalued.

Nevertheless, ecommerce websites still convert more highly than any other channel, accounting for 30% of transactions. Thus it’s smart for retailers to promote their domain names as much as possible.

Following direct visits, organic search and paid search are the two biggest drivers of purchases from new customers, accounting for 39% of new customer transactions. That’s because the web continues to be a useful tool for what Forrester calls “spear fishers” — consumers who know what they are looking for and find it through search.

For repeat shoppers, e-mail is the most effective sales influencer: Nearly a third of purchases from repeat customers initiated with an e-mail. As such, businesses should up their efforts to collect e-mail addresses, and tailor their e-mail marketing messages to each recipients’ device and prior purchase behavior.

Social media’s potential as a shopping portal has yet to be realized. Less than 1% of transactions from both new and repeat shoppers could be linked to social networks, Forrester found.

That said, the researcher believes social media can still be a powerful marketing tool, and that social media’s influence on purchase behavior likely can’t be measured in the 30-day attribution window the report examined. Forrester also asserts that social media is a bigger sales driver for small businesses, which were not included in the study.”

The study was also picked up by several other media outlets, including Business Insider, which quotes Sucharita Mulpuru – the author of the report. Her conclusion:

Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers. While the hype around social networks as a driver of influence in eCommerce continues to capture the attention of online executives, the truth is that social continues to struggle and registers as a barely negligible source of sales for either new or repeat buyers. In fact, fewer than 1% of transactions for both new and repeat shoppers could be traced back to trackable social links.” (Source)

“Trackable” social links.

Has you brain caught up to your gut yet? If not, let me throw a few thoughts your way:

1. The study is based on flawed assumptions: There’s a problem with the study’s understanding of social media’s role in the customer journey (paths to purchase). The study, for instance, states that direct visits to e-commerce sites drive the most sales. Really? All right. Here’s a question: How did people initially get to the e-commerce site? Before we can talk about paths to purchase, can we at least consider their path to discovery? Was the site recommended? Did it turn up on a search? How and where did retailers promote their domain names, exactly (which the article suggests they should do)? Beyond discovery, how were shoppers’ purchases influenced by peers and other shoppers, via social networks, digital or not?

The study doesn’t look into any of this. It obviously is just working backwards from a purchase by tracking clicks, and probably no more than 4-5 deep. Sorry, but except for impulse shoppers, that isn’t how things work. Shoppers don’t typically follow robotic, linear paths from discovery to transaction. So that’s one problem already, and the numbers reflect it pretty clearly. Perhaps the clearest way to explain the first problem with this study is that it doesn’t seem to measure the “Purchase Path of online Buyers” in 2012. Instead, it appears to just measure the final sprint.

2. The study is based on flawed methodology: The study’s attribution model is wrong. If you have been in the business of selling things to human beings for a few years, you probably know that it takes more than just one “touchpoint” to convince someone to become a new customer, especially online. The study, however, would have us believe that 67% of transactions from new customers were the result of just one touchpoint. (20% of those being a direct visit to the e-commerce site.)

Not likely. Even more puzzling, the percentage attributed to single-touchpoint sales remains precisely the same for returning customers: 20%. Think about that for a minute.

Again, the study appears to mistakenly assume that paths to purchase are linear and can be measured simply by backtracking clicks. That’s what the mention of “trackable social links” was all about. We have known for some time that “last click” attribution is a flawed model. For the same reasons, “last 4-5 clicks” is also a flawed model. I suspect that the methodology behind this study was as influenced as it was limited by the technology it relied on to collect its data.

From where I stand, the methodology used in this study is completely wrong for what it attempts to do. Take a look at the graphic below and give it some thought. What do you see?

3. The authors of the study misunderstand the relationship between social content and search: The impact of social media on search (and therefore discovery) is utterly ignored in this study. Given what we know of social content’s importance to search, this is a bizarre and inexplicable oversight. Social drives sales directly AND indirectly by greatly impacting search. This isn’t news. And yet…

4. The study’s scope is limited to the enterprise… but isn’t particularly forthcoming about that: As stated by Business Insider, “Mulpuru didn’t study small businesses, which she said do disproportionately well in social commerce.”

How about that.

Two questions come to mind:

First, why wouldn’t the study also look at small businesses? Surely… if you know that they “do disproportionately well in social commerce,” there must be data that supports that statement. Where is it? Why wasn’t it included in this study? Why does doing well in social commerce disqualify small businesses from being part of this study? Was the intent of the study to… convince businesses that social channels aren’t effective? I don’t get it.

Second, why would the study not make it clear in its reporting that it only looked at enterprise sized businesses? Where in this language is the general public given the slightest indication that the study’s conclusions only apply to the enterprise? Here it is again:

Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers. While the hype around social networks as a driver of influence in eCommerce continues to capture the attention of online executives, the truth is that social continues to struggle and registers as a barely negligible source of sales for either new or repeat buyers. In fact, fewer than 1% of transactions for both new and repeat shoppers could be traced back to trackable social links.”

Hmm. “Hype” versus “truth.” Okay… No bias there, obviously.

However, to be fair to the public, should the statement not look more like this instead?…

Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers for enterprise e-commerce sites. While the hype around social networks as a driver of influence in eCommerce continues to capture the attention of online executives, the truth is that social continues to struggle and registers as a barely negligible source of sales for either new or repeat buyers, at least in the enterprise space. In fact, fewer than 1% of transactions for both new and repeat shoppers for enterprise-class businesses could be traced back to trackable social links.

That would be a more appropriate way to phrase all that.

Furthermore, why was this enterprise distinction not mentioned in the study’s title? “The Purchase Path of Online Buyers in 2012″ isn’t exactly indicative of the study’s focus on large businesses, is it.

If you think that is just a minor detail, see item 7, below. You will understand the full impact of this “oversight.” But first, this:

5. The study fails to understand the relationship between time, discoverability, and trust when it comes to the social customer: The study states that “Forrester partnered with GSI Commerce to examine 77,000 consumer orders made over a period of 14 days in April 2012.”

The study only lasted 14 days.

The nature of social media being what it is (relationship-based), leaving yourself only 14 days to track a social customer’s path from discovery to purchase is not an appropriate, realistic timeframe. This screams of automation and basic linear click attribution fallacies. So much for the development of online relationships, organic social integration, word of mouth, etc.

6. The study fails to take into account overlapping fields of influence in a shopper’s decision-making process: Paths to purchase are typically impacted by multiple, sometimes concurrent experiences. Some may be prompts (like an email promotion or a banner ad – which the study takes into account), but others may be recommendations from friends (online and offline), a preponderance of positive brand or product mentions on social channels, reading user reviews, social validation in the form of product or brand “likes” by trusted friends, and even direct interaction with a brand’s social channels, not to mention offline influences as well.

A study that attempts to understand and map “the purchase path of online buyers in 2012″ cannot ignore those factors. Not if it hopes to be taken seriously. By putting “trackable links” ahead of actual purchase paths, the study completely missed the mark on the role that social media plays in the customer journey – not only when it comes to mapping the path from discovery to first purchase, but also in regards to customer development as well (the path from first purchase to measurable loyalty). Poorly done.

7. Questionable reporting: Although the study is titled ” The Purchase Path of Online Buyers in 2012,” Forrester decided to market it by leading with this headline: “Less than 1% of online purchases come from social channels” (source). How did the most flagrant red flag in the study’s methodology become the study’s principal selling point? Your guess is as good as mine. The best i can come up with is that controversy sells.

The result:

Mashable covered the story using this title: “Social media Influences Less than 1% of Online Purchases. [STUDY]

Business Insider’s Title: “Forrester: Facebook and Twitter do almost nothing to drive sales.

BizReport: “Forrester: Facebook will never be a retail sales channel.

Internet Retailer: “Social media posts don’t lead to sales.

You get the picture. And so we come full circle to Mashable’s article, which gives business executives the following advice:

“Ecommerce businesses should concentrate more of their efforts on traditional online marketing tactics like search and e-mail than social media.”

This kind of nonsense gives me headaches. It really does.

Now don’t get me wrong: at the end of the day, it may very well be that social channels only contribute to 1% of online sales for many businesses. Most of us have seen strong evidence to the contrary in our own ecosystems (mostly double-digits from where I am sitting, except for category leaders in mature markets), and companies like Burberry might even disagree about that, but all right. For the sake of argument, let’s say that for the corners of the business world that we haven’t had any contact with, the number is indeed 1%. But even if that were the case, this study’s methodology would still be wrong in the way it arrived at that number. It’s just bad science, poor analysis and not particularly responsible reporting.

Most of us already know from experience that more often than not, the only thing standing between a company and its success is access to actionable market insights. Bad data or flawed analysis can lead to poor strategic decisions – from bad investments to completely missing the mark with a product or a campaign. Likewise, accurate data and insightful analysis can lead to terrific strategic decisions and score game-changing wins for a challenger or emerging brand. This stuff is important. It’s vital. There is just no room for bad science and poorly managed studies. Not when trust in your studies and market analysis comes with expectations of thorough expertise.

So the lesson here is this: Do your homework. Don’t assume that a “study” is accurate and factual just because it was done by a reputable company. Do your homework. Look for flaws, for red flags, for insights that ring a little wrong. Better yet, go find your own answers. Write your own case studies. Join our growing community of companies for whom social media is responsible for a lot more than just 1% in net new sales revenue. You’ll be glad you did.

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