Helping consumers buy the right phones and tablets with confidence online


Marjorie Leonidas


May 1, 2020

Screen time. It’s hardly news, but mobile phone usage is going up. Buying a phone is a very personal choice, and complex decision. With stores shuttered, anyone who wants to buy or upgrade a phone must go online. 

It’s hardly news, but mobile phone usage is going up. Last year, average screen time in the UK was already three hours and 23 minutes per day, a total of 50 days every year. And now 38 per cent have reported using their mobiles more as a result of coronavirus outbreak. Of course, for millions of people confined to their homes, mobile phones are a lifeline. Phones may even come to play a key role in defeating the virus, as Apple and Google team up to explore using iPhones and Android devices for contact tracing.

Despite the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the supply chain, International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts worldwide smartphone shipments of 1.339 billion units for 2020, down slightly from 1.372 billion in 2019. A return to growth is expected for 2021 with volumes up by 6.3 per cent. 

Buying a phone is a very personal choice. It’s also a very complex decision. Which brand and model? Features and specifications? And accessories: earphones, portable charger, car mount? And then there’s selecting the right package. How much data do you need? What’s better – a monthly contract or pay as you go or SIM only deal? Given the close relationship most of us have with our phones, it’s a high stakes – and often high value – decision. We want to get it right.

That’s why so many people like to shop for a new device in person, to see, hold and physically compare devices before choosing, with help from a knowledgeable sales assistant or contact centre agent. However, stores are shuttered and restrictions on shopping in real life are likely to remain for some time yet. Increasingly, anyone who wants to buy or upgrade a phone must go online. 

For many of these customers, it’ll be the first time they’ve made such a consequential purchase in this way. Retailers can respond by doing all they can to replicate the personal help and general buzz of in-store experience. One way to achieve this is to use social proof, which draws on the experience of other shoppers to guide and accompany the novice buyer on their shopping journey. It’s especially valuable for buying complex products - like smartphones or tablets - where the consumer needs to make choices at each stage of the buying process. Without online assistance, it’s all too easy for the shopper to lose heart; the transaction falls into the ‘too hard to do category’ and customers simply drop out of the buying journey. Social proof messages can steer customers through the complexity, give them a sense that they are not alone and encourage them to successfully complete the transaction. Online guidance and virtual support for consumers can also reduce their need to call to the contact centre or help desk, bringing down costs for the retailer.

Phone retailers and mobile operators can use social proof to:

  1. Highlight popular models of handsets and accessories: ‘Great choice! This model is our #1 best seller’. 
  2. Act like a virtual sales assistant: ‘We have 32 of this model in stock now’.
  3. Indicate top selling plans or bundles and draw attention to value added services.
  4. Speed up decision making with aggregated customer reviews: ‘89% of people who bought this gave it five stars’.
  5. Reassure shoppers with the validation of other customers: ‘120 other people are looking at this right now’.
  6. Personalise the experience: ‘Welcome back! 78 people have bought this since your last visit’.
  7. Build trust in the online process: ‘48 people have purchased this today’.

A steady flow of appropriate, well-crafted real-time messaging helps to give customers confidence. It replicates some of the bricks and mortar experience, showing shoppers that they are not alone in the online store, that others are also heading down this same route and making similar decisions. As well as making the online encounter more personal, more engaging, social proof can also increase average order values, conversion and sales for the retailer. But most importantly, by sharing the experience of all, social proof can help everyone purchase the right phone for their lifestyle and budget. 

We don’t know how long the current restrictions on going out will last. While shoppers can’t get to the store, the store must go to the customer. For retailers new to social proof, Taggstar has extra resources in place to prioritise onboarding of new clients. Our team can create and test messaging for you and have it up and running on your website in days. We’re here to offer you every support so you can give all your online customers a positive experience.

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