LSA|14: comScore’s Gian Fulgoni Highlights Drastic Changes in Ways Consumers Shop and Buy

Gian Fulgoni, executive chairman and co-founder, comScore, kicked off the final day of our 2014 LSA annual conference with a data-filled presentation on the fast-changing consumer path to purchase and its implications for local marketers. Throughout his presentation, Gian highlighted data sourced from comScore’s global panel of two million Internet users around the world.

Gian began his remarks by highlighting the emergence of the “digital omnivore” in the U.S. marketplace. He said that there are 156 million smartphones and 82 million tablets in the U.S., growing at 24% and 57% year-over-year. He also noted that while Millennials have a substantially higher rate of smartphone penetration than their older counterparts, that reality will likely change in the near future.

Gian said that Americans today spend more time on mobile platforms than on desktop. He noted that leading retail properties are now seeing one-third of their monthly audiences coming exclusively from mobile platforms. He said these developments mean that retailers and marketers must have a mobile strategy.

That said, Gian also noted that retailers and marketers should not forget legacy media or the desktop for categories where they still play an important role. For example, desktop still attracts a strong share in the online couponing business, even though mobile is changing the game in other categories such as weather and maps.

Gian then discussed the growing importance of mobile search and advertising, which grew to a $7.1 billion business in 2013. He said that consumers today are accessing a broader variety of local content via mobile, noting that apps use is growing faster than browser. He described how valuable mobile searches are to retailers and marketers: almost 80% of mobile searches end in a purchase, with nearly 75% of purchases occurring in-store. That’s why spending on mobile advertising today is surging – now equaling that of banner ads. Gian mentioned that social networks including Facebook and Twitter are benefiting from this shift towards mobile, since their newsfeeds are well suited for mobile ads.

Lastly, Gian highlighted how successful multi-platform marketing can mean the difference between realizing valuable opportunities versus suffering damaging consequences. He described a changing consumer path-to-purchase that is no longer funnel-based, but rather “a flight map” that has consumers jumping from friends and family, TV, online, brick and mortar stores and print media before moving forward with a purchase. He stressed that while mobile use in the shopping experience is growing fast, traditional media like newspapers, TV and magazines are still rated highly by consumers.

Gian said that mobile devices have helped to accelerate the movement of pricing power to the consumer, and that they have an impact on both offline and online buying decisions. He mentioned that more than 1 in 3 online consumers said they have showroomed, with the top reason being to find a better price online. Gian also noted that while somewhat limited, m-Commerce is growing rapidly (reached $25 billion in Q4 2013, +22% year-over-year), but he also said its importance varies substantially across product categories.

The key takeaway from Gian’s session was clear: there are drastic changes taking place in the way that people shop and buy today. Retailers and marketers continue to adopt and change quickly. But in doing so, they must take careful note of what types of media – traditional, online, mobile, and/or tablet – are most effective in reaching consumers in their category.

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