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Social Media’s Impact On Mobile Commerce: Visits Are Up, Conversions Are Down

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Branding Brand is an under-the-radar company whose name you might not know offhand, but whose platform powers the mobile commerce in several names you probably do know. Their client list includes brands like American Eagle Outfitters, Ralph Lauren, Sephora, Anthropologie, Dick’s Sporting Goods, GNC, Steve Madden, TigerDirect, West Marine, Timberland and Crate & Barrel, for example.

Given its access to mobile commerce data and customer conversion rates, Branding Brand has the ability to uncover some interesting trends related to social media and mobile commerce. In data tracked from January to May 2012, the company found social media-driven conversions from mobile users are trending downwards, even as social media-driven visits go up. And the impact of social media in general is minimal when it comes to mobile  – as a whole, it was responsible for less than 1% of referrals to brands’ mobile websites.

About the Data

Branding Brand is able to use its analytics system to discover insights related to mobile commerce. Looking at the company’s five biggest clients (you can probably guess the names, but the data is anonymized), Branding Brand CMO Christina Koshzow, tells us that, combined, the clients saw a 31% increase in total mobile visits from January to May. Initially, that sounds like good news. But customers are not buying, it seems.

First, all the usual caveats – e.g., consider the data’s source. In this case, the data was aggregated from 255,363,110 mobile pageviews, 45,871,654 total mobile visits, and $18,641,773 in total mobile revenue from Branding Brand top five clients from January to May of this year. While the five are arguably big name brands, five is still a small group – you can’t call this an industry-wide trend. But Koshzow argues that the five are some of the biggest and most interactive retailers out there, and the sample size is huge (see above).

Also of note, the five clients are seeing declines in social media conversions even while their mobile conversions are up 14% during Jan. through May. For retailers without a mobile site, their social media conversions may even be worse.

That being said, consider this an interesting cross-section of social media data, that, if taken in conjunction with other studies, could produce greater insights.

[Note to RSS readers: most of the data in this article is in chart format, which you'll not be able to see without clicking through. Stupid RSS!]

Social Media Drives Less Than 1% Of Mobile Website Traffic, Facebook Top Referrer

Social media, as a whole, was responsible for less than 1% of the total visits to the retailers’ mobile sites, Branding Brand found, with Facebook providing the majority of the referral traffic.  Facebook sent the clients 95.1% of the social media-driven mobile visits, Pinterest sent 4.88% and Twitter 0.2%.

In fact, despite strong growth in visits from Pinterest, conversion has “dramatically” decreased since January 2012. Pinterest users now convert at .07%, a 73% decline since January.

Twitter, meanwhile, provided virtually no traffic and never resulted in a mobile order.

Pinterest Vs. Facebook

Also, despite all the hoopla surrounding Pinterest, Branding Brand found that Facebook users actually convert and spend more than Pinterest users do.

Why is this happening?, we asked the company. “Increased traffic doesn’t always mean increased conversion, especially if the quality of visitor declines,” explains Branding Brand co-founder and CIO Joey Rahimi, “Many retailers are flooding social media and jumping on the bandwagon, but are they attracting someone who will actually buy?”

“Although these social sites have provided a great way to drive traffic and sales on desktop, they still haven’t cracked the case on mobile. On mobile, they’re providing far less traffic and contribution of sales,” he adds. “We’re still searching for a social solution to help all channels.”

If the above charts speak to truths other retailers are also seeing, it’s clear that mobile changes the game in more ways than one.