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A few months ago, I started exploring the key need-to-knows of beacons, whilst also considering cost-effective solutions for small businesses.

For all the marketing press coverage I studied then however, there appeared to be little on the actual practicalities. I guess, the not-so-sexy part of beacon marketing, critical nonetheless.

Specifically, what I wanted to know: are all suppliers equal? How easy are beacons to set up and manage? Do they suck a lot time and resource to integrate and maintain? And where does the data go?

And so, I decided to approach one of the technology providers to explore that facet a bit more.

The key take-outs from our conversations as well as findings from my latest research and DIY experiment are summed up here in B&T magazine. I hope you find them useful and look forward to hearing about your first-hand experience or any additional tips you may have for us!

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A couple of weeks ago, I attended the eMarketer’s webinar “Key Trends in e-commerce” and thought I would share with you the developments and insights that caught my attention.

It’s worth noting that most of the trends covered in this webinar are based off US-centric data. However, with the US being one of the leading countries in all things e-commerce-related, it’s safe to say those changes will soon be happening on our Aussie doorstep – if they are not already in some shape or form.

Below are the three trends that grabbed me:

#1. The adoption of beacons and visual search by retailers to bridge the online and offline worlds.

#2. Mobile sales may be small in volume and dollar value (at country level and worldwide). Yet mobile browsing is a key driver of sales across channels.

#3. Etailers are working hard to bring a human touch online and offline.

Happy reading! And as always, I would love to hear your thoughts on new and emerging e-commerce trends to watch over the next few months.

#1. The adoption of beacons and visual search by retailers to bridge the online and offline worlds.

Beacons make it possible to deliver personalised mobile communications at the right time and at the right place to the right person. And amongst the many use cases, beacon-triggered mobile messaging may be used as a way of driving sales off and online (think: e-coupons etc). For those of you who are keen to find out more about how they work, their benefits and other key considerations, you can check out my post on the key need-to-knows of beacon marketing.

Compared to beacons, I would argue visual search is still in its infancy, with a much lower take-up amongst marketers worldwide at this point in time. Its future is nonetheless equally promising. Luxury fashion retailer Neiman Marcus is amongst the very few who have started using the technology as a way of generating more sales, with the recent launch of the Snap.Find.Shop feature on its shopping app.

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#2. Mobile sales may be small in volume and dollar value (at country level and worldwide). Yet mobile browsing is a key driver of sales across channels.

Research has shown that tablets and smartphones are often the preferred devices for searching and browsing product information, exploring options, with the actual buying typically taking place on a desktop or in-store. Sales made through mobile devices remain comparatively small as a result.

However, for this very reason and as eMarketer points out, one should not underestimate the influence of mobile browsing. Our mobile consumption habits and ultimately their very impact on sales make it critical for marketers to have a mobile presence, commerce-enabled or not.

Sadly, there are still too many Australian brands out there (large and small) whose web presence is not mobile-optimised and/or who have no mobile apps either – making the discovery of their products and services through mobile difficult, if not impossible. These brands are missing out and no doubt losing sales to competitors who think mobile first.

#3. Etailers are working hard to bring a human touch online and offline.

Online, this human touch may take the form of an online personal assistant or a video chat with a stylist to help with your online shopping as it happens.

Offline, pop-up shops are one of the ways established online retailers such as Amazon or Zappos are experimenting with a physical store environment. This allows them to connect with a category of customers whom they would otherwise not reach i.e. those consumers who prefer the warmth of real-life interactions with sales assistants made of flesh to virtual ones, as well as those who like to experience and touch products before buying them.

For more on these and other key trends, you can view a recording of eMarketer’s webinar “Key Trends in e-commerce” here. Alternatively, for the time-poor amongst us, here is (spoiler alert!) their wrap-up slide:

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Finally – there is one other trend worth considering, not covered in the webinar as such, yet one to watch in my view.

This trend is best exemplified by Burberry or Hointer.com as they both seek to bring the convenience of the online shopping experience in-store, each to a different extent however.

Burberry’s London flagship store was the first of its kind when it launched in 2012, and remains one of the best examples of store of the future to this day. Simply, no expense is spared to recreate a fully-immersive online shopping experience in-store, through a blend of interactive multi-media content and state-of-the-art store design.

A lot more recent, the Hointer.com shopping experience goes the extra mile in my opinion, achieving a closer “virtual store in a physical world” experience. It uniquely uses mobile technology as the key enabler of its in-store shopping experience end to end, transforming the role of sales assistants as we know it in the process.

Now, some of you may argue that Hointer.com is taking it a step too far, that it’s way too cold and mechanic and that it will never catch on. Well, it may be the way you think now as it is a never-seen-before experience after all, bound to take us out of our comfort zone initially. But who’s to say that it won’t be one day the only way to shop in-store? I guess time will tell.

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4 years from now mobile video consumption will become mainstream Cisco tells us.

The multinational predicts that two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2017.

In other words, consuming video content on your smartphone or tablet will become as mundane as watching TV or sending a SMS.

Come to think about it, 2017 is not that far off.  This made me consider my own current mobile usage behaviour:

How often do I watch videos on my phone or tablet these days? Twice a week on average I would say and mostly YouTube videos.

And do I watch more video content on these devices now than I did a year ago? Absolutely – and upgrading from a multimedia phone to a smartphone certainly helped.

By extension, it also made me wonder how close Cisco’s forecast was to becoming a reality for my fellow Australians. Well, according to the latest research, 2017 is a lot closer than one might think:

According to eMarketer, 64% of the 25-34 year-olds in Australia are already watching video on their mobile phones and tablets, followed by 61% of the 35-49 year-olds and 36% of the 18-24 year-olds.

For these age groups, mobile phone is the most popular platform for viewing video content (87%), with tablet a close second (74%).

Additionally, 53% of Aussie smartphone users admit to viewing mobile video several times a week with 18% of those once a day (honourable yet worth noting that there is still room for growth as Americans remain ahead of the pack with 31% of them watching mobile video at least once a day) – Source: Nielsen’s The Mobile Consumer: a global snapshot, Feb.2013.

Combine all of this with a smartphone penetration of 73% in the 15 to 65 age group predicted to reach a whopping 93% in 2018, a tablet penetration forecast to increase to a no less impressive 80% from 49% (source: Frost and Sullivan’s Australian Mobile Device Usage Trends study), ever increasing mobile data allowances, faster networks, bigger and higher res screens, content quality on the rise, suddenly it is easy to see how quickly Cisco’s forecast will come to realize Down Under.

And naturally, with more of us consuming mobile video content by the day, marketers the world over are taking notice and starting to invest serious ad dollars on video ads as a new and effective way of reaching and engaging their audiences. Video is indeed one of the fastest growing digital ad formats, with its stickiness and engagement rate alleged to be superior to other digital formats.

Some parts of the world are embracing the video format more quickly than others however – with the US leading the charge yet again and Australia far behind in comparison.

Whilst the mobile advertising market in Australia is the fastest growing component of the digital sector (its $ value grew by 190% YOY in FY13), it is still only 5% of the total search and display spend – well behind the US and UK who report mobile as being 10% and 9% of spend respectively (source: IAB’s Mobile Trends Report, September 2013).

The first time I reported on the gap between Australian advertisers’ uptake of mobile and their audience’s mobile consumption was in January 2013.

9 months on the issue remains.

Here is to Australian marketers getting serious about all things mobile before 2017 – if not before the end of the year.

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The Chinese most definitely are according to GroupM Interaction’s latest survey of close to 1000 respondents.

Some of the most striking results, which I couldn’t help but compare myself to, include:

– 80% of respondents admit sleeping with their phones at arm’s reach (tick);
– 73% of smartphone users wake up to their phone alarm (tick), increasingly making watches a thing of the past (tick);
– 95% use their phones just before bedtime at the ’25th hour’ (er, tick);
– 66% ended a relationship by mobile – making this form of breakup otherwise known as a digital dump – (thankfully not a tick!). On the same note, sadly, according to other non-China specific surveys, most connected users would rather leave their spouses than their iPads at home when they go on holiday…

A quick poll to see if you too are guilty of the above sins! Say yes for those of you who tick 4 or more of the above behaviours.

Finally, we learn that in February this year China overtook the US as the world’s largest smartphone market.

With this in mind, marketers the world over ought to play closer attention to both trending and emerging consumer mobile usage behaviours in that part of the world. Watch, learn and get their marketing ready ahead of these behaviours hitting their shores.

More survey results can be viewed here:

I have just come across yet more insightful research from our Google friends, which the advertising types amongst us will no doubt find useful.

This time the research focuses on mobile searches – specifically, mobile user search behaviours and the correlation of mobile searches with online and offline conversions.

You can view the full Mobile Search Moments study here – for now, I just wanted to point out a couple of striking stats.

First – their research shows that a staggering 77% of mobile searches happen at home or work (i.e. a location likely to have a PC), with only 17% on the go.

This surprised me at first as I had thought until now that smartphones were used for searching mainly on the move (i.e. when no PC is available). Then I remembered my own behavior at home: since trading my old phone for an iPhone 5, my smartphone has fast become my #1 device of choice for initiating all sort of activities from the comfort of my sofa including checking emails, reading online articles, playing games and … searching.

The study goes on by explaining that the key reason for users preferring their mobile phone over a tablet or PC when searching at home is the convenience and speed it offers. A respondent explains: “It was easier on the mobile device as I didn’t have to get up to turn on the computer and wait for it to boot up”. I could indeed have said this myself to justify my own behavior.

One other key insight that stuck with me is how powerful a conversion tool mobile is:

Not only 3 out of 4 mobile searches trigger follow up actions (e.g. visiting a retailer’s site, sharing the info you have found etc.), but also – and most importantly – 55% of purchase-related conversions (i.e. store visit, phone call or purchase) occur within one hour of the initial mobile search, with that number increasing to 81% within 5 hours.

As the ultimate “always on, anywhere anytime’’ companion device, the ever increasing take up of smartphones and with both a purchase intent and conversions this high, it is easy to see why smartphone users need to be at the top of any marketer’s priority list (sadly not always the case).

And for the time-poor amongst us, the below infographic sums up all other key insights for future reference – Thank you Google!

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Telstra’s latest financial results fresh out of today’s news speak for themselves:

Its mobile business is thriving as it clocked 4 million new customers over the past 3 years, including an additional 607,000 customers and a revenue growth of 4.6% in the last 6 months alone – a healthy growth driven for most part by the sales of its 4G mobile devices and continued expansion of its 4G coverage.

What does that tell us?

Simply that more and more Australians are consuming mobile internet and data services.
That mobile is where the action is and where local advertisers should invest (those that aren’t already or not seriously enough.)

(Yes, I know I am starting to sound like a broken record. And here also.)

Where should I start? (I hear some of you ask)

Optimise your website for mobile for a start.
And if you have a new one on the way, make it responsive (more on this later!).
The same advice goes for email comms.

I recently commmented on most Australian brands not leveraging mobile internet consumption and smartphone uptake. I have just come across some more stats and predictions here, which if turned out to be true will only contribute to making the gap between marketers’ mobile uptake and consumer mobile usage wider. If brands needed more evidence that mobile is fast becoming a key comms and sales channel that can no longer be ignored well here it is…time to get serious and invest into it!

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