Why social network shopping could usher in the next mCommerce boom

Why social network shopping could usher in the next mCommerce boom
Ian began his career in the mid-nineties in press, before moving agency-side as a media planner at AW Media. He moved into out-of-home with stints firstly at Clear Channel, then JCDecaux. Ian joined KBH On-Train Media at the start of 2005 as Sales Director, becoming Managing Director in 2006. Since the start of 2015 Ian's role has encompassed KBH Connected (previously KBH Digital) and Union Street. KBH Connected gives advertisers access to on-train consumers through train operating company digital assets including entertainment portals, consumer-facing websites and Wi-Fi. Union Street is a digital advertising management platform which maximises target audience access and inventory value for advertisers.


The recent move by Instagram to push into the social commerce space with the launch of an in-app shopping discover function is the next step in the growth and proliferation of a new breed of consumer; the social media shopper.

From fashion app Depop to present app Giftagram, there are already a number of established and emerging retailers creating apps to target mobile commerce, but social platform Instagram getting in on the act is something of a game-changer, bringing ‘shoppable photos’ to 500 million monthly users.

Thanks to its vast reach, Instagram has the power to shift the way in which consumers shop online, particularly during key dwell times such as the daily commute.

We are accustomed to using our devices for information and entertainment but an increasingly large number of us are using our mobiles for shopping; in 2016, total m-commerce sales will account for £25.2bn, an increase of more than 25% on the previous year, according to eMarketer.

This shift is indicative of a trend in behaviour to be constantly switched on and ready to shop at the click of a button – music to the ears of brands and advertisers.

But when are consumers shopping on mobile devices? A fifth of all UK online shopping sales take place during the daily commute, reported in 2015 as accounting for £9.3bn each year.

The peak morning rush (7am – 9am) sees the biggest spike, when 1.5 million commuters are estimated to be shopping. This figure will continue to grow, no doubt to be driven by social shopping.

Social platforms

The move by Instagram to integrate an in-app shopping discover function opens up endless opportunities for fashion brands in particular.

With visually led platforms like Instagram, we are more inclined to click the ‘purchase’ button, should we see that coveted winter coat on our favourite blogger or Alexa Chung donning a piece from her new M&S collection.

In a survey we conducted exploring this behaviour, we discovered that 62% of our research respondents regularly browse fashion retailer websites via a connected device, while 58% of them regularly make purchases through this medium.

So as social commerce becomes a powerful force in retail, remember the nudges afforded by classic media

In addition to this, 25% use their connected device to browse fashion retailer websites on the train, while 18% use their device to buy from fashion retailer websites in the same environment. Instagram will seamlessly tap into this audience.

There’s also proof that consumers are increasingly browsing social networks for purchase ideas. More than half (56%) of consumers who follow brands on social media sites say they do so to view products, according to research from Aimia.

The Aimia research shows that consumers are visiting social platforms to inspire purchases – nearly a third of online shoppers (31%) say they are using these channels to browse for new items to buy.

Facebook is currently the most popular platform for shopping (26%), followed by Instagram (8%) and Pinterest (6%).

And the demand for buying directly through social networks is there too. One-third of 18-24-year-olds say they would like to purchase items directly from Facebook, 27% want to shop on Instagram and 20% on Twitter, followed by Pinterest (17%) and Snapchat (15%).

What’s the opportunity?

There is an opportunity here for established and emerging brands to capitalise on these changing consumer behaviours through digital, connected avenues.

But advertisers and planners should also consider other means to reach consumers when they have the time and inclination to shop online.

Classic media like print and OOH still has a key role to play and provides a number of benefits not covered by digital counterparts.

As consumers we have become adept at picking out and editing brand messages which are relevant to our lives and personal interests. Classic ads enable consumers to ‘opt in’ to prompts to go online at a time and place of their choosing, delivering benefits for both brand and consumer.

The brand can control their messaging in such a way as to target consumers in their ‘down time’ and build brand awareness for a later action. The consumer doesn’t feel bombarded and in turn, deterred from engaging with a particular brand.

The on-train environment has been proven to prompt action; for example, 55% of those who recalled seeing a Traincard campaign in situ, on the train, have carried out a specific action as a result of that.

In addition to this, 63% of those who recalled a Traincard in situ agreed they would consider a specific brand versus 33% of those who did not.

Should classic media incorporate strong branding work, it has the potential to remind people of a product when it becomes available via a social platform; it can provide a teaser or a reminder, a powerful call-to-action.

Above all else, classic media has the capability to plant a seed that will later grow into activation, appeasing both brand and consumer.

So as social commerce becomes a powerful force in retail, remember the nudges afforded by classic media to ensure reaching connected consumers with the right message at the right time.

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