Welcome to a New Era of Convenience Shopping

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Buy buttons are taking convenience shopping to a whole new level. In recent weeks, Instagram and Pinterest announced new buy button features that make it easy for consumers to purchase goods and services directly from their apps. Facebook, which began testing shoppable ads in 2014, announced an expansion of its program. Google confirmed that the search giant is developing a buy button so that shoppers can make purchases directly from Google ads. Why the interest? In a word: mobile.

It’s easy to see why these digital brands are instituting buy buttons. In the United States, online commerce accounts for but 7 percent of all retail sales. According to Forrester Research, by 2017 the Web will generate $370 billion in U.S. sales, or 10 percent of the total. By making it easier to conduct transactions online, the likes of Google, Instagram, and Pinterest hope to stake a claim to the $3.3 trillion in sales that will occur offline.

But why are we seeing a proliferation of buy buttons now? There’s something else going on: since 2013, consumers have preferred using their mobile devices over laptops and desktops to interact with retailers online. The shift to mobile has profound implications:

  • Mobile consumers have an immediate intent to purchase: according to a recently released report by Google, I Want-to-Go Moments: From Search to Store, half of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphones visit a store within 24 hours. Nearly half of consumers trying to decide on a restaurant do their local search within an hour of actually going.

In I-Want-to-Go Moments: From Search to Store, Google noted that the number of “near me” searches (searches conducted for goods and services nearby) conducted by consumers have grown by 34 times since 2011; and 80 percent of those searches are conducted on mobile devices.

“With a world of information at their fingertips, consumers have heightened expectations for immediacy and relevance,” wrote the report’s author, Matt Lawson. “They want what they want when they want it. They’re confident they can make well-informed choices whenever needs arise. It’s essential that brands be there in these moments that matter — when people are actively looking to learn, discover, and, or buy.”

You can sense the wheels spinning at Facebook, Google, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, where consumers and brands share the same space: if consumers are collapsing the journey from awareness to purchase on their mobile devices, why not remove the friction of sending them offline to buy something? Why not use buy buttons seal the deal the moment when initial research and consideration occur on mobile devices?

So it’s no surprise that within days of each other, Instagram and Pinterest announced the launch of buy buttons for purchasing online pinned merchandise on Pinterest and sponsored images on Instagram. Pinterest is especially intriguing because essentially the site is a treasure trove of products and ideas that inspire people enough to want to share their conscious or unconscious purchase intent via the images they pin and re-pin (for instance, hop on Pinterest for a few moments and check out the many user boards that are variations of “fashions that inspire me”). When the buyable pins are launched, Pinterest users will be able to search for product ideas from the many brands on Pinterest and click on pins to buy items that interest them. In effect, Pinterest will become a shopping search engine.

Meantime, Google confirmed a Wall Street Journal report about the imminent launch of clickable ads through that appear alongside search results. Without needing to leave Google, consumers will be able to select products, buy, and order them — and if you store your credit card, the process will become easier next time. For its part, in April, Amazon released a “dash button” through which consumers can easily re-order frequently used goods such as laundry detergent, and have the items delivered directly to their homes. And last fall, Twitter indicated that was testing its own buy button.

But offline businesses aren’t standing still. As consumers become more receptive to using mobile wallets, businesses are drawing consumers to local storefronts with mobile coupon offers. For instance:

  • Recently, Pep Boys, the national automotive aftermarket product retailer, launched a campaign using mobile wallets to attract shoppers to its 800 locations. Customers who opted into the campaign received offers to Apple’s Passbook or Google Wallet. Pep Boys relied on customers’ GPS locations to send offers to customers using push notifications. Customers redeemed in-store three out of 10 mobile wallet offers, helping Pep Boys realize seven-figure sales results within a few months. The Pep Boys mobile wallet offers relied on convenience instead of urgency (once you download the offer, you can redeem it on your own timetable although Pep Boys certainly reminded you to do so when you were near a store).

As I reported on Superhype, in May, SIM Partners (a client) and Vibes announced a relationship that will combine local search and mobile technology to make it possible for businesses to make offers to consumers based on their proximity to a business. The announcement demonstrates the market interest in mobile wallets. The two companies are integrating mobile wallet campaigns with the SIM Partners Velocity platform to help national brands create online and in-store offers that convert shoppers into buyers based on a customer’s search intent and proximity.  The announcement demonstrates how forward thinking firms are investing into mobile wallets, and for good reason: mobile wallet offers have a 64-percent higher conversion rate over static mobile Web coupons and a 26-percent increase in average order value over static mobile web offers.

Buy buttons and mobile wallet offers have hurdles to overcome. As reported by Jason Del Ray in Re/Code, buy buttons require some complex ecommerce integration. And mobile wallets, while growing in acceptance, still have a long way to go before they become mainstream.

But I believe ultimately both will take hold because:

  • On the other hand, buy buttons and wallet offers tap into natural, comfortable behaviors: making convenience purchases and enjoying deals. Mobile wallet offers appeal to the time-honored activity of using coupons — and with greater ease than fumbling around with paper coupons. Buy buttons appeal in a similar way that impulse  items in the check-out lane make it easy to make a purchase decision.

In her Internet Trends 2015 report, Venture Capitalist Mary Meeker cites the advent of buy buttons as one of the key trends shaping commerce. As she notes, buy buttons “minimize friction to purchase @ moment of interest.” In other words, buy buttons, like mobile wallet offers, create something consumers have craved since long before the Internet: convenience.

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