Analyzing the Impact Mobile Will Have on Holiday Shopping
The scorching heat of summer makes it difficult to even think about December, but the holiday shopping season will be here before we know it. Innovation in e-commerce is perpetually changing the way consumers shop. Merchants need to pay close attention to industry trends if they hope to succeed in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
The impact that mobile will have on holiday shopping this year will be unlike anything we've ever seen. According to comScore, more than 234 million Americans own mobile devices. Even more staggering is Cisco's prediction that the number of internet-connected mobile devices on the planet will outnumber humans in 2012. Smartphones and tablets offer a level of accessibility and user engagement that can't be matched by any other platform, which is why brands and merchants need to make mobile their priority.
Optimizing the Mobile Web
Effective mobile strategy begins with setting up a mobile website. Apps are certainly valuable, but to be relevant all you need is an optimized mobile web experience. Most consumers say they do research and prefer to shop using a mobile website instead of apps, as browsing and searching for products is second nature to them. It's up to retailers to optimize that experience or risk losing sales to their competition.
Mobile, by nature, is larger in its reach and potential but smaller in its appearance. A robust web experience that looks great on a PC will clutter the smaller displays of smartphones. Mobile users need information that's easily accessible on sites that are simple and intuitive to navigate. Today's content should be tailored to fit every touchpoint consumers visit, particularly on mobile devices.
Consumers are using mobile websites to shop, gather information, take product tours, read reviews and make purchases. The entire experience, from initial search through completed transaction, can all happen in the palm of one's hand. Retailers that assume their regular website will suffice or think they can get away with creating a mobile landing page that ultimately directs users to their standard web content are bound to miss out in a big way this holiday season and beyond.
Making Mobile Personal
The rise of mobile-specific loyalty programs will certainly have an impact on shopping this holiday season. Sure, there are still plenty of people out there who clip coupons from newspaper circulars or get their card punched every time they buy a cup of coffee, but smartphones make it possible for retailers to make special offers and reward loyalty in a way that's far more targeted and specific to the individual consumer. Companies can use your location, analyze your shopping habits, look at your past purchases and know what items you've been researching to generate mobile offers that you're most likely to need and use.
Safeway runs an extremely effective, hyperpersonalized savings program called just for u. Using algorithms and every bit of data it can obtain from customers previous trips to Safeway, their household demographics and location, the grocery store retailer can offer deals and discounts that are designated (as the name would suggest) just for them. The special offers can be claimed once a customer enrolls in the program via a smartphone.
As we approach the holidays, expect more companies to follow Safeway's example. If data can be analyzed to predict that a specific family will likely take advantage of a special offer on turkey or stuffing, for example, information from previous mobile web searches and purchasing patterns can certainly determine who might be in the market for specific types of toys, electronics, cars and more.
Recent developments in mobile technology have taken comparison shopping to a new level. Shoppers have to consider two key questions when buying any holiday gift: one, what am I buying and, two, where am I buying it? comScore reports that 58 percent of consumers use their mobile device during the in-store shopping experience. Users can hold a product in one hand while looking up a product, reading reviews and comparing prices in the other.
Just because someone spends time in a store deciding which TV to purchase doesn't mean that store is going to get the sale. Retailers are constantly vying for shoppers and the competition to convert sales can be fierce. Amazon.com recently launched an app called Price Check that gives consumers the ability to scan a barcode, take a photo of an item or speak the name of the product to compare that store's price with Amazon's. The app has allowed Amazon to collect a wealth of data from brick-and-mortar competitors across the country. It also gave Amazon a last-minute opportunity to convert sales. On one Saturday in December last year, Amazon offered a 5 percent discount on up to three items to anyone who used Price Check and completed their purchase within 24 hours.
Some criticized Amazon's tactics for being unfair, but no one doubted they were effective. Expect other companies to follow suit. Smartphones make it possible for brands and retailers to determine what people are shopping for and to know which competitors are in play. Until that transaction is finalized, every consumer is fair game.
As the use of smartphones and tablets continues to grow exponentially, retailers must develop a mobile strategy that gives them an edge this holiday season. Optimizing the mobile web experience, giving consumers personalized incentives and leveraging data to convert sales will be critical for companies that want to adapt to the times and stand out from the competition.
Uzair Dada is the CEO and founder of Iron Horse Interactive, a multichannel marketing company.