Changing How We Buy: The Mobile-Social Generation

Think for a moment. Can you list the top three behaviors you have changed or adopted because of social media and mobile devices?

Many of us can think of one, such as how we check Facebook more often than we used to. (What did we do with all that spare time back in, say, 2005?) Or perhaps we share digital pictures more often with family and friends. Beyond these big changes, we’ve likely made many more subtle changes over time that we don’t even notice.

The biggest change that marketers see is how we as consumers are using our networks to support our daily experiences in real life. Dave Senay, president and CEO of public relations and advertising firm Fleishman-Hillard, says it best: “We’re witnessing a sea change in process. Today, the collective voice of the Internet is eclipsing the persuasive power of family, friends or colleagues when it comes to influencing purchase decisions.”

Shopping goes mobile-social
The next time you’re out shopping, stop and look around. (You may have to look up from your smartphone to do so.) Do you notice how many people are on their mobile phones? And they’re not just speaking. They’re looking, searching, scrolling, comparing and basically taking their purchase questions into their own hands when there’s a perfectly capable sales associate nearby.

The trend toward “DIY shopping” is just one of the significant shifts in behavior that researchers have noted about today’s consumer. How significant, you ask, is this shift? Recent research from Google indicates that 90 percent of us use smartphones and social media before we shop, and 84 percent of smartphone shoppers use their devices to help them shop while they’re in a store. In fact, some of us spend up to 15 minutes of our average department store visit on our mobile devices!  

In social media we trust
A recent German study pointed out that Germans place just as much weight on information from social media as on information from TV. In the U.S., we see similar trends. We increasingly trust social media as a source of political news that’s as reliable as newspapers, evening news shows and other traditional sources, according to a George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management/ORI survey shared with near last year’s election.  

In fact, it’s not just consumers like you and me that trust information from social media, but also the companies that monitor consumers. Nielsen and Twitter are already working closely to launch the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings – the first standard metric that attempts to measure the reach of TV conversation on Twitter – in time for the 2013 fall television season. Nielsen and others have found that the perspectives we share on social media are often an accurate portrayal of how we really feel, react to and relate to the world around us, or the screen in front of us.  

Snuggle up to smartphones and social media
Millennials, those 18- to 29-year-olds whom we often consider “digital natives,” are the most connected generation to date. In fact, they’re so connected to social media and their mobile devices that they’re writing the future of behavior change right before our eyes.  

A Pew study of Millennials pointed out that most of them – about 90 percent – sleep with their cell phones at hand. And Millennials don’t just sleep with their smartphones; 75 percent use them in bed before going to sleep and 90 percent check them again first thing in the morning. Half use them while eating, and a third use them in the bathroom. A third check them every half-hour, another fifth check them every ten minutes, and a quarter of them check their smartphones so frequently that they lose count!

The next time you pull up Facebook or switch on your smartphone, think about how you used to do things and take notice of the subtle, or not so subtle, shifts in your behavior. Your social networks likely influence you more than you think.

July 2, 2013