Removing Friction From The Path To Purchase

Wearables and social media seek to make it easier than ever to spend our money while simultaneously providing a wealth of information to media companies and brands alike.


Look no further than Disney World if you want to see how digital technology could revolutionize the customer shopping experience.

“You will find yourself in the land of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy. Nothing of the present exists.” — Walt Disney’s description of the park in early brochures

Disney has made a $1B bet on their MagicBand wearable technology in an effort to create a seamless experience for park-goers that considers all touch points pre, during and post-trip. To start, you book your vacation package online customizing your trip preferences via My Disney Experience. Opt into “MagicalExpress” and the MagicBand will allow you access to board a park-bound shuttle, check into your hotel and ensure your luggage is there waiting for you. In your room. No waiting at baggage claim necessary. Amazing. Magicbands also serve as your entry into the park and provide access to rides you’ve pre-reserved to avoid the lines. While at the park, MagicBands automatically capture images of guests on rides and with park characters using RFID tracking technology. Dining in the park becomes equally magical if you enter a restaurant where you have made reservations while wearing your MagicBand. In addition to knowing your name, the greeter will tell you to sit wherever and your food will simply know where to find you because the MagicBands notify the kitchen and server staff where your party is sitting and what you would like if you have pre-ordered through the Disney World mobile app. Back at home, the Disney PhotoPass package then allows guests who opt in to access all those amazing memories to reminisce post-trip.

Some will say that technology that knows this much about you is creepy, but I think it’s more likely people will take more pleasure in the effortless utility connected wearables like Disney’s MagicBands provide. The consumer data pulled from these devices also provides a form of real-time feedback that can then be used to further enhance customer experiences.

Social Buy Buttons

For the last year, we’ve heard announcements from all the leading social networks about the launch of buy buttons, and some are getting there faster than others. For Twitter and Instagram, it’s been an iterative process that began with partnerships. Last summer Twitter partnered with Amazon to allow Amazon customers to add items to the cart from Twitter by replying to tweets featuring Amazon product links with #AmazonCart. Instagram’s partnership with similarly provides a half step between browsing and purchase. Subscribers to like a photo on Instagram with a link and receive ready to shop product links in their inbox.

Facebook and Snapchat both allow users to message cash to friends, but have yet to release buy buttons on product ads despite the fact Facebook has been talking about doing this since summer 2014.

Pinterest beat everyone else to the punch and released buy buttons in promoted pins last month, and brands could see significant ROI. According to a 2013 Shopify e-commerce study, Pinterest has the potential to deliver an average order value just under $60, higher than most other social networks. Not surprising if we consider that one of the primary uses of Pinterest is to bookmark items for later purchase. By nature Pinterest is about planning, and is therefore a much less impulsive platform than say Twitter where content is delivered and consumed by the minute with users rarely revisiting old content.

That said, Facebook will likely begin rolling out buy buttons later this fall and could deliver impressive ROI as well given their reach and refined targeting capabilities. In fact, the same Shopify study referenced above also shows that the majority of orders from social media come from Facebook, and that Facebook targeting delivers a significantly higher average conversion relative to other social networks.

Better 1st Party Purchase Data

Soon, I think we will see the wealth of transaction level data from Google Wallet, Apple Pay and social buy buttons enhance ad targeting using 1st party data. With this, consumers stand to see more relevant messages based on things they actually buy and brands stand to see better conversion rates due to more relevant ads.

Purchase history behavioral targeting has been around for a while, but primarily through 3rd party data sources like BlueKai, Datalogix, and i-Behavior, which is not as valuable as 1st party data. What’s the difference?

Caroline Desmond

Facebook for example currently allows brands to target promoted posts using Datalogix 3rd party purchase behavior data. This data is primarily sourced from loyalty card and/or transaction-level household purchase data. However, once Facebook rolls out buy buttons on ads, there could be a wealth of 1st party purchase data available based on buy buttoned related transactions. Brands could then retarget Facebook users based on individual purchases (vs. household level purchase data). Additionally, 1st party purchase data is not modeled, so it can also be used to create more qualified lookalike audiences for better targeting.

In addition to better targeting, the other major implication for brands and media companies is the ability to address all parts of the shopping process on social media from awareness → consideration → purchase, and more easily tie actual sales to social advertising activity. Something I expect will further increase what brands are already investing in social media which is currently expected to reach $24B in 2015. Time will tell.

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