Mobile and social. Invest in them now, right?
Well, if it's not those two surging platforms that are doing the trick for your organization, why put so much stock in them?
EPiServer’s third annual 2014 e-Commerce Survey of e-commerce practitioners, conducted at the 10th annual Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition, the world’s largest e-commerce event, revealed that mobile and social may not be as "surging" as they seem.
For instance, 64 percent of those surveyed claimed less than 20 percent of their business sales came through mobile transactions. But mobile ranked as the top priority in regards to future investments for those surveyed.
Similarly, 93 percent of those surveyed said transactions are made through their website rather than their social site. However, social ranked third in terms of future investment areas for those surveyed.
EPiServer's message? Put your money in what's working now.
Validating the Findings
The findings were confirmed by a Gallup poll just released today, which found social media has little influence on a clear majority of Americans. Although many companies run aggressive marketing campaigns on social media, 62 percent in the US claim Facebook, Twitter and other social sites have little or no influence on their decisions to purchase products.
Only 5 percent report social media have "a great deal of influence" on their purchasing decisions, while another 30 percent report these channels have "some influence." These data, from Gallup's new State of the American Consumer report, are based on Americans' self-reported estimates of how much social media campaigns affect their purchasing decisions.
Bob Egner, vice president of marketing at EPiServer, told CMSWire the most dramatic change he's seen in the past few years is the increase in the number of B2B companies who want to get value out of the online channel.
"This part of the industry is clearly trending up for a variety of reasons," he said. "The people with e-commerce roles at B2B companies that I spoke with are still trying to determine what they can learn from the several-year lead that B2C retail has in e-commerce. What extends well into B2B and what does not."
Egner said he's also surprised continually by the lure of mobile and social technology. The survey responses continue to show those areas as key investment opportunities for companies selling online.
"However, the data also shows that those channels are helping reach new customers, providing information and validation from others during the decision-making process, and adding convenience to the overall transaction," Egner said. "We just haven’t seen a rapid shift by consumers to embrace these new technologies for the transaction, but it’s becoming more important for a great digital experience."
Why Not Mobile, Social?
So in the smartphone boon, why does e-commerce serve mostly outside of mobile and social for B2B companies? And why would companies put such an emphasis on it if it's not producing sales? Egner said:
The survey data shows that transactions are largely being conducted on a website regardless of screen size. My interpretation is that consumers are adopting all sorts of mobile technologies but perhaps not being very aggressive at using all the capabilities that have been put in the palm of their hand. I suspect that there is a longer adoption cycle or compelling value that has not reached the mass market. To some extent I could say that about online transactions as well, since globally e-commerce represents less than 10 percent of all retail sales."
And as for social, why invest if transactions aren't happening through social? He added:
The more important point about social is that it acts as a substitute for search. Consumers are exposed to products and brands in that channel where they spend time, as they were in TV and print in the past. The two most important benefits for social are the validation that people in your network provide to their connects who are not familiar with your brand or product, and the data that is available to see how opinion and traffic are being fueled by that social interaction."
Search, Email Kings
Survey results indicate that search and email still rule when it comes to e-commerce transactions, he continued:
You don’t get any more personal than email. When used correctly, it’s a medium that is addressed to an individual with an opportunity for an extremely focused message based on easy-to-collect online behavior. I’d say search has taken the same turn since -- Google SERPs are highly personalized based on other searches you have made or re-targeted ads that appear in the right rail of the SERP. More importantly, these are proven technologies that consumers feel comfortable with. The survey data shows this clearly, that search and email have the most important contribution to the transaction."
Understand what drives awareness and convenience for your audience based on the channels and technologies they are comfortable using, Egner said, adding:
And don't underestimate the power of content to drive e-commerce transactions. Regardless of where or how the transaction ultimately occurs, the trend is clear -- content is used to attract buyers, inform the decision, and re-engage for future transactions."