Friday, 15 May 2009

Social Media v Ecommerce websites -Subconscious differences

Recent research from Hitwise, and specifically Robin Goad (who always puts really interesting stuff out there.) indicated that social networking sites are becoming far more sticky than ecommerce websites. Overall time spent online seems to remain fairly constant, but time on shopping sites is reducing and social networks are increasing. So why is this? Is it because a lot of us have less money to spend so have more time to chat? Or are there more subconscious reasons? The blue line is shopping sites, the yellow line is social networks.

Additional research also indicated a 5.3% decline in referrals from paid search to ecommerce sites (Mar 08 to Mar 09), yet a significant increase of referrals from social networking sites. Putting all these stat's together, it would, in theory, confirm that online consumer behaviour is becoming less responsive to push advertising from brands; and more about researching amongst peers before going to the retailer's website. Whether this is to price check, check availability or buy.

So if shopping sites are becoming less sticky, and social networks otherwise, is there something that retailers can do to improve this situation? Can they do something to win back the time spent by consumers on their site?

Well, the first port of call would be to research this. But not some old fashioned focus group or usability test asking questions of the user...oh no no no. That just wouldn't do, as that only operates at the conscious level and assumes the user is fully in tune with their actions and can articulate the reasons for their behaviour. We all know this cannot be done...don't think of a purple what did you just do? The mind has a "mind" of its own and there are certain things we just can't tap into. Until fMRI research that is, which looks at brain activity.

Somatica Digital and Neurosense are about to embark upon some subconscious research that will compare social networks and some ecommerce sites and see what factors arise. The areas being analysed will include such things as attention span, emotion, effort, understanding, computation and a few others. It is expected to uncover some interesting findings.

The output should be able to provide retailers who are interested with some key factors that could help them win back this consumer time on their sites.

If you are a retailer and you are interested in getting involved with this project; or you're a social network or industry body, please get in contact with me directly or email
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