How Mobile Tech and Social Media Are Merging to Change the Shopping Experience
The near ubiquity of smartphones and the irresistible lure of social media are upending how retail is done, all over the world.
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Evolving commercial platforms are constantly challenging retailers. It wasn't all that long ago that Mom and Pop stores and cottage industries gave way to department stores. Then independent department stores amalgamated with malls. Enter the Internet, which took the buying experience from the physical to the virtual level.
It appears that a new buying experience is currently being created, one that can be completed successfully just by sliding a finger. Let's welcome the newest dynamic duo, a synergy of social media and mobile.
The global appeal of social media.
Before making a purchase, today's consumers regularly use social media to exchange information and hear what other people have to say about a product of interest. They regularly recommend and review products or services to their peers via this media.
According to U.S. census data, worldwide social media users exceeded 2 billion in August 2014. In addition to the well-known international giants like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, many countries like China, Russia and Japan have successful native social media channels.
The monetization of social media.
Because social media is used so widely around the world, its monetization is inevitable. Various social media platforms are now creating monetization strategies to directly promote sales, in addition to the paid advertising that they are already offering. Facebook is beta testing Place Tips, a series of multimedia beacons in New York City. Twt2Pay is a social commerce platform that enables people to buy items on Twitter by tweeting the promotional hashtag of the product that they want. Pinterest recently rolled out Rich Pins, including Product Pins, with real-time pricing and product availability.
Related: With the Arrival of Twitter's 'Buy' Button, Is It Time to Move Into Social Commerce?
The mobile shopping experience.
According to eMarketer, the number of smartphone users worldwide will surpass 2 billion in 2016, representing over a quarter of the global population. Mobile is slated to gather pace, as cheaper handsets and more affordable data connections become available around the world.
Combined, mobile phones and tablets now account for 38 percent of all web page views around the world. Laptops and desktops saw a 13 percent decline in share of web traffic in comparison to last year, down to 62 percent of all web page views.
Considering that mobile-oriented services like WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger are now achieving the top social media ranking spots in some of the world's largest economies, it would appear that much of our digital behavior is now focused on mobile devices.
If you also bear in mind that people take their smartphones everywhere they go, the union between mobile and social media is clearly a match made in heaven. Using their ever-handy smartphones, users automatically pull up data, Google a company name or open an app in seconds, anytime and anywhere. The insertion of a "Buy Now" button within a social media platform or mobile app enables shoppers to immediately complete a transaction simply by sliding a thumb.
Related: How to Make More Effective Use of Social Media in Your Ecommerce Strategy
Retailers can shorten their sales funnel.
Retailers can offer this new shopping experience fusing social media and mobile to the next-generation consumer at relatively low cost. Potential customers can be addressed on social media, encouraging two-way conversations, reviews and the exchange of information. This kind of interactive nurturing inspires long-term loyalty.
By developing their own inexpensive mobile apps or adding a "buy now" button to a social media platform, retailers can ensure the kind of immediate and optimal shopping experience that buyers today demand.
Additionally, the monetization of social media on smartphones considerably shortens the sales funnel, bringing the buyer, who has already consulted the opinions of his or her peers, to the payment stage almost immediately.
Related: How Your Small Business Can Use Social Media to Boost Sales