The interior of a shopping mall in Hong Kong.

Earlier this week, Salesforce released its quarterly shopping index showcasing new trends in digital spending habits. The results of its extensive research — over 500 million shoppers were included in the analysis — revealed an uptick in purchases completed via mobile devices and a landscape of customers that are increasingly persuaded by social media.

No surprises there. However, what was unexpected in the results was the rapid rate at which mobile continues to ascend the ranks of platforms used to complete a purchase. From the fourth quarter of 2014 to the same period in 2016, mobile spending rose 16 percent. When considering the surrounding cultural changes, shoppers are still spending. In an industry shrouded by uncertainty and a constant obstacle to untangle consumer demands, this report potentially marks a time of optimism — or at least a slight relief in the incessant struggle.

Here, Rick Kenney, head of consumer insights at Salesforce Commerce Cloud, explores just how retailers are capturing consumers’ attention and pertinent lessons to be gleaned from the study among additional industry insights.

WWD: As reported mobile traffic and order share grew this quarter — what strategies worked to capture shoppers?

Rick Kenney: Mobile continues to grow thanks to continued shopper adoption. More importantly, shoppers are buying more often during those mobile visits — thanks in part to enhanced use of mobile wallets, like Apple Pay, which launched on mobile web in late 2016. User experiences are optimized for the small screen for mobile. Additionally, mobile saw a surge in social traffic, which is up 61 percent year-over-year and now accounts for five percent of mobile traffic.

WWD: There’s a disparity between active shoppers and buyers seen in the buying intention segment of the report. Why is conversion still low? How can retailers improve this ratio?

R.K.: Digital — especially mobile — has democratized shopping. Shoppers can be spontaneous and visit a site with little premeditation compared with a store visit, which takes much more effort. Since digital has nearly eliminated the obstacles to visit and purchase, shoppers are evolving their buying patterns — mobile’s growth is a great example of that. There is still friction in the buying process, though retailers that employ mobile wallets, provide product recommendations, and even share inventory across their digital and enterprise stock, will help reduce that friction.

WWD: There’s a downward trend in product assortment purchased year-on-year — why?

R.K.: There is some push and pull with product catalog size and product assortment. Merchants exert real effort in bringing products online and providing good-quality product data, such as attributes and buying tools. As retailers adopt and rely upon artificial intelligence for merchandising and optimizing their product data, product catalog sizes could very well increase.

Social media superstar Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah sent off selfie snaps with fans in Bergdorf's beauty department.

Social media superstar Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah sent off selfie snaps with fans in Bergdorf’s beauty department.  Lexie Moreland

WWD: The quality of content has been a common topic of discussion lately — how has improved content affected spending habits in the last quarter?

R.K.: Connecting the shopper with the product effortlessly is essential for retailers. Retailers must go beyond basic applications of artificial intelligence. This is not only about “you may also like,” but rather bringing relevance — both of content and product — into more impactful areas like site search results and category pages.

WWD: What can be gleaned from the report for retailers planning their next holiday strategy?

R.K.: Social is a real channel now — during the holidays, we expect eight percent of mobile traffic to be from social sources. These social and consumer platforms are essential for representing the brand, but also for finding new shoppers. And mobile must be a focus for retailers. Mobile will drive more orders than any other device during the holiday season. Those who reduce friction from mobile buying will benefit. Site search must be a focus for retailers, especially as retail heavyweights have trained shoppers to use it as the shopping starting point.

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