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Mobile’s deep influence on fashion shopping might be common knowledge, but according to research from Facebook’s research arm, the timing of when phones and apps enter the picture matters, too.

The Facebook IQ report noted that customers whose first contact was on mobile spent more time with a given brand and engaged in a greater number of browsing sessions. In other words, because they stick around longer, they tend to have greater exposure to more products. It also boosts the odds of a transaction. The study noted that “when a fashion purchase journey starts on mobile (particularly on a mobile app) it can have up to a 1.45 [times] higher chance of converting than those that start on desktop.”

This detail is a new revelation for the group. Its previous research showed that having mobile in the mix often resulted in a shorter “purchase journey” compared to desktop. But that study didn’t necessarily account for timing. Here, the researchers specifically looked at purchase experiences that kicked off through a mobile app.

“In the past, some marketers working in e-commerce were looking to shorten the customer journey,” said David Tucito of Facebook Solutions Engineering, “but fashion marketers now understand that long-term value can be more important than a quick conversion, particularly when they’re dealing with customers using their app.”

Facebook IQ, mobile apps social shopping retail

From Facebook IQ’s study on mobile’s impact on shopping  Courtesy image

The company examined a sample of European fashion retailers for the study, and the purchase situations covered were limited to those visible to the social company. But that’s no small affair for a tech giant that serves more than two billion monthly active users.

Of all fashion purchases Facebook saw and tracked, 60 percent were made on a mobile device. And 70 percent of all online fashion shopping that ended in a purchase included mobile at some point in the experience.

“Every day we work with retailers around the world to unlock mobile as a means to driving in-store sales,” said Karin Tracy, head of luxury, fashion and retail at Facebook. “Whether a customer’s journey begins on the mobile device or complements an in-store experience, this personal device has raised the game on customers’ expectations.”

Facebook IQ also surveyed nearly 4,600 people who recently visited brick-and-mortar stores. More than half of the participants — who hailed from the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the U.S. — said they’d be open to receiving coupons or other promotions as they shopped.

Facebook IQ, mobile apps social shopping retail

Fifty-two percent of participants said they were open to receiving offers while browsing the aisles.  Courtesy image

In terms of the apps they fired up during their last visit, 44 percent used WhatsApp. The chat app scored particularly well with users in Germany, Spain and Italy; twice as many used it, as compared to their American, British and French counterparts. Messenger followed, at 20 percent, with Instagram close behind at 18 percent. Of the people who use Facebook, 32 percent reported that they opened the parent company’s app last time they were in a store.

When it comes to in-store Facebook use, the company noticed an unexpected generational divide: Millennials were much more likely to report usage than older groups. In fact, they were 1.74 times more likely than those 55 years of age and older, and 1.33 times more likely than people 35 to 54 years old.

The response may surprise jaded social watchers who are keen to chalk up Mark Zuckerberg’s primary platform as Grandma fodder, though perhaps not the context: The millennial subjects said they were searching for a more meaningful and interesting activity, describing the in-store experience as boring.

Facebook IQ, mobile apps social shopping retail

Turns out, millennials turn to Facebook while shopping in stores. Why? Because they’re bored.  Courtesy image

The takeaway for brands and retailers: Both the in-store and mobile experience should engage and entice, preferably in a unified way that connects to the brand. As Tracy put it, “Fashion marketers that provide a consistent, personalized experience — no matter when or where their customers shop — are those that will come out on top.”