By Jay Henderson, Enterprise Marketing Management, IBM
As the countdown to the 2012 Summer Olympics begins, the United States is about to face another exciting summer of nail biting and exciting sports action. We’ll watch the Williams sisters go for gold, Ryan Lochte add to his medal count, and we’ll hope for another U.S. soccer win. But that’s not all – in fact, we’re about to encounter our first ever “Socialympics,” with more than 4.9 million viewers tuning in to catch the games, whether through their television or mobile device. And that’s not all – another 900 million Facebook and 140 million Twitter users will also serve as a captive Olympic audience.
As the countdown to the London games begins, sports fans are furiously checking their Twitter and Facebook feeds for updates on which athletes have made the team, posting their predictions, and searching for the best athletes to follow. And while this may very well be the year of the “Social Media Olympics,” there’s one thing consumers don’t seem to be using social media for, and that’s shopping. In fact, IBM’s retail online index saw a 20 percent decline in social shopping in the second quarter, which begs the question, why have marketers missed the boat on this seemingly enormous opportunity?
Although 2011 saw huge gains in terms of social media users, the medium still seems to perplex marketers. Case in point, while marketers agree social media is an important channel, 65 percent of CMOs surveyed in IBM’s 2011 CMO Study, stated they are under prepared for the growth of social and online channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Despite this consensus however, IBM’s State of Marketing 2012 Survey found that marketers are still in the experimental phase when it comes to social media channels, lacking the focus they need to grab the gold. If that isn’t enough, 51 percent are not using this data to inform decisions about marketing offers and messages. When you consider the vast amounts of valuable data provided by these social channels, the fact that more than half of marketers are not using it is, to put it gently, insane.
It’s clear that the failure of marketers to form a clear consensus on how to best utilize social channels is stalling the success of social shopping. And consumers are taking notice, with sales essentially stagnant and positive sentiment around social media dropping fast. According to the online retail index positive sentiment toward social media dropped from 25.1 percent in Q1 to 18.6 percent in Q2 with the leading factors for this shift being the lack of social media deals offered by retailers which were more prevalent in Q1.
What’s encouraging is that it wasn’t too long ago when we were wondering when marketers would take advantage of the mobile opportunity. Today, it’s clear mobile takes the gold, as marketers focus their efforts on mobile shopping and consumers continue to embrace mobile devices as key tools in their shopping pursuits. The continued focus on mobile is evident in the second quarter of this year where mobile commerce grew to 15 percent of all online purchases, an increase of more than 14 percent over Q1. While Apple’s iPhone still ranks number one when it comes to mobile device retail traffic, the iPad comes in a close third.
Speaking of the iPad, Forrester points out that while only nine percent of web shoppers own a tablet device, those shoppers actually prefer their tablets for shopping over their PCs and smartphones. In fact, retail shopping through tablets is only expected to increase, with an estimated 119 million tablets to be sold globally in 2012, 70 percent of which will be iPads. We saw a huge surge in iPad shopping in the home goods sector in Q2 where iPad surpassed both iPhone and Android with an 11 percent share. Now as consumers continue to purchase tablets and shop online, the new era of “couch commerce” will officially be in full effect, with 96 percent of tablet users flocking to their living rooms to make their online purchases.
It’s clear 2012 will be an Olympic year for mobile and online shopping, but social media will have head back to the training room if it hopes to take claim a spot on the podium in 2014. Critical to this training will be an alliance between marketers and their IT counterparts with the chief marketing officer and chief information officer leading the way. Through this collaboration between CMOs and CIOs, social media might just have a chance to take its spot next to mobile.