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Holiday 2014 Data Yields Powerful Insights for the Year Ahead

Wondering what 2015 promises?

Look no further than the data from early holiday 2014 shopping, recently released from IBM and other companies monitoring real-time consumer transactions.

These data-driven insights confirm what many have predicted: the 2014 holidays will be noted as a turning point in shopping behavior with marked increase in mobile and social commerce. These shopping trends will impact both B2C and B2B marketing and public relations in 2015.

Hello, social commerce. Hey there, mobile shopping!

Data Tells the Story

IBM has released the results of its real-time consumer transaction data analyses, reporting record online and mobile shopping. These insights, based on consumer transaction data analyzed by the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, show that mobile shopping has reached a tipping point.

“For the first time mobile devices drove more than half of Thanksgiving online traffic, a trend that continued throughout Cyber Week,” said Jay Henderson, Director, IBM Smarter Commerce. “As the holiday shopping season becomes less concentrated on a single day, retailers and marketers took advantage by making it easier for consumers to find the best deals on the go, whenever and wherever they chose to shop.”

Social commerce is becoming the norm, with 70 percent of U.S. online consumers not only paying attention to opinions posted in blogs and online reviews, but, according to Forrester Research, also (32 percent of survey respondents) stating they trust a stranger’s opinion on public forums or blogs more than they trust branded advertisements.

Nearly one third of participants in a 2014 Marketlive/E-Tailing Group Consumer Shopping Survey say they’ve made purchases as a direct result of interactions on social media. Forty-eight percent of respondents believe it important to share product recommendations with friends and family via social channels.

Consumers are bringing smartphones and tablets to the front of the shopping process. According to IBM’s data, smartphones accounted for 34.7 percent of online traffic on Black Friday while tablets accounted for 12.9 percent of online sales. According to a Google Mobile In-Stores Study, one in three shoppers use their smartphone to find information instead of asking store employees for help.

Shoppers are becoming increasingly web and mobile-savvy. They’re vocal in online reviews of likes and dislikes, and they are sharing exactly what they like and dislike in product selection, pricing, availability and customer service in their social networks, using their smartphones and tablets. Social commerce has arrived.

The Impact on Public Relations

Clearly, including social and mobile tactics in public relations strategies targeting consumers has never been more essential. And, understanding the role that online reviews play in consumer purchasing decisions is also critical for PRs working with brand communications.

“(Ninety) percent of respondents who recalled reading online reviews claimed that positive online reviews influenced buying decisions, while 86 percent said buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews,” according to a 2013 survey by Dimensional Research.

However, it’s also interesting to note that these same trends are predicted to impact business to business marketing and communications. We are beginning to see, what some are calling the “consumerization” of business to business purchasing behavior, resembling some of the consumer purchasing trends illustrated by 2014 Holiday shopping data.

So, while not all consumer shopping activities translate to the B2B purchasing model, many do. Enough to make social commerce and the insights derived from the 2014 Holiday shopping season worth paying serious attention to.

“Be prepared for buyers and users to become more aware of what and who comprises the competitive landscape for your industry,” says leading authority in buyer insights and buyer personas for B2B Marketing, Tony Zambia. “Each new introduction of digital technology and services has an impact on buying behavior.”

This so-called consumerization of B2B purchasing is still very new. However, sites such as G2 Crowd and Trust Radius are betting on growth in this direction. Both sites offer business purchasers the opportunity to research and compare business software and services based on both user ratings and social data. Business users are able to log into the sites using their LinkedIn accounts and review products and services. The reviews have credibility, since reviewers are not anonymous.

“The advancement of transparent reviews will accelerate new rules of purchasing within this context,” says Tony Zambito.

These are exciting times. The 2014 Holiday shopping data confirms the growing acceptance of social commerce and foretells the potential “consumerization” of the business to business purchasing process. Savvy PRs will pay close attention to data-based insights coming out of this year’s social commerce at the holidays.

Want to master real-time PR for the holidays? It’s not too late! Get your free “Real-Time PR for the Holidays” white paper now!

Image: Dr. Wendy Longo, MTAPhotos (Creative Commons)

About Allen Mireles

Allen Mireles is a strategist and wordsmith with an affinity for technology. She lives at the intersection of social media and traditional marketing and public relations and never gets enough time in the garden. Find her on Twitter @allenmireles.

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