December 10, 2013 | Emily Winsauer

The True Meaning of Christmas Mobile Shopping

Christmas Mobile Shopping

The early data is in, and this holiday season is already shaping up to be the biggest yet for online retail sales.

But another change is drifting in on the peppermint-scented holiday breeze - instead of putting up another barrier to customers that marketers must overcome, mobile ecommerce is bringing us all closer together again, largely on the customer’s terms.

Mobile is probably bigger than you think.

At least, it’s bigger than I used to think. IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark reports that we had a record-setting Thanksgiving weekend shopping period, also referred to as the “Cyber Five” – the 5 days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.

Specifically, mobile sales and traffic comprised nearly 40% of all online traffic on Black Friday and nearly one third of all online traffic on Cyber Monday. Just 3 short years ago, only 4% of Cyber Monday online traffic came from mobile devices.

Online retailers are also reporting sales that reflect these huge increases in traffic. EBay recently announced that the mobile purchases and payments it received during this year’s Cyber Five were nearly double last year’s numbers, and eBay’s PayPal division had its biggest day ever this Cyber Monday.

So, people are buying gifts online, and sometimes they use their smartphones. We knew that, right?

Sure, but that’s not the whole story. It’s not even the most important part of the story. What “mobile shopping” means is expanding and becoming much more sophisticated, driven both by consumers and retailers.

Far beyond just making a purchase in an online store, mobile shopping includes a wide variety of shopping behaviors, including:

  • using a store locator
  • conducting product research
  • comparing prices
  • reading product reviews
  • finding store coupons and discounts
  • using retailer-specific apps
  • using shopping apps
  • checking product availability in stores and online
  • searching for discounts and coupons
  • scanning bar codes for product and pricing information
  • signing up to receive retailers’ texts for deals and info
  • accessing social networks to research products, find deals, or even share deals
  • budgeting and tracking spending
  • so, so much more. Seriously. If you have a Mac, search “shopping” in the App Store

Moreover, any one of these activities may happen at home, at the office, in a retail store, or anywhere else.

Do you run an ecommerce website? Your customer may be checking your prices while standing in a competitor’s retail store.

Do you run a retail store? Your customer may be scanning a bar code in your store and searching for product reviews online, helping her decide whether to buy the item.

The way we make purchases is changing.

During the summer of 2013, mobile devices surpassed desktop and laptop computers as the primary way Americans participated in online retail activities. Your customers are more likely than ever to use mobile devices to research their purchases online and buy from ecommerce stores. In fact, they’re now more likely to use their phones or tablets than they are to use a computer.

According to Google, 84% of “smartphone shoppers” (people who use their phones to assist with shopping at least once a month) use their phones while in a physical store. Many people even have their store loyalty cards on their mobile devices; clerks can scan barcodes right from their phones and in many cases loyalty coupons are applied to the purchase automatically.

Obviously, marketers can no longer be thinking about mobile shopping as simply ecommerce purchases.

Treat mobile shopping as a part of the retail experience.

We all need to start thinking about mobile devices as a natural part of all shopping experiences, and behave accordingly.

Whether you have a physical store, ecommerce shop, both, or even neither, mobile shopping is now a part of how you do business. Even if you sell services, your potential customers are still researching your business on mobile devices, making comparisons with your competitors, checking out your existing work, and visiting your social media profiles.

If you have a brick-and-mortar store, there is a lot your can do to improve your customers’ in-store experience with "mobile outreach." The Apple Store may using mobile checkout and an in-store app to reach out to customers, but even the smallest shop can provide wi-fi. VIEO’s favorite coffee shop, Cozy Joe’s, offers a free cookie to customers who tweet about them. It’s relatively easy to implement QR codes around your store leading to website pages with coupons, contests, or customer surveys. The lesson: you CAN engage with mobile shoppers.

If you have an ecommerce store, you reach out to your customers through your web presence. The next section is all about meeting mobile customers more than halfway online.

Think of yourself as the Hostess with the Mostess.

Your website is your business’s home, and you need to light the candles and put some cookies in the oven. Invest in it, maintain it, promote it, and welcome people to it.

When you have a guest, you do your best to accommodate him or her, and your website is no different. Visitors will be coming to your website on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers, as well as finding you organically through search engines and social media as well as your own traditional and digital marketing activities. As a result, you have to think about accessibility - don’t make important information available in only one place or accessible by only one platform, including store hours, locations, specials, coupon codes, and more.

Use your website analytics to learn more about YOUR mobile traffic. Check out:

  • what percentage of visits are from mobile devices
  • what type of device customers are using
  • whether they’re completing sales
  • which pages they’re visiting
  • what sites mobile traffic is coming from

Comparisons with non-mobile traffic should give you valuable insights into the weaknesses and strengths of your website for mobile visitors. If you don't know what I'm talking about, sign up for Google Analytics immediately.

You can’t just hope that people will choose you. From their mobile devices, your customers can search for the best deals, read product reviews, and find comparable items elsewhere. Step out the front door and meet them on the porch with a website that’s easy to use on mobile devices, social media profiles that include how to find you, posts updating fans on specials, and email/RSS/blog/text subscriptions so your devoted customers can stay up to date on your flash sales and holiday hours.

One of the best ways to put your best foot forward for all online traffic is have a website that’s designed to be responsive, meaning that it naturally resizes (well, our development team wouldn’t say “naturally” - they have to code it) to fit whatever device it’s being viewed on. Responsive design is one of VIEO’s specialties, and we’d be happy to give you more information.

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Emily Winsauer

Emily Winsauer

As VIEO's content director, Emily Winsauer was responsible for content strategy for VIEO and our clients for over 5 years. She recently moved to Seattle where she's still creating compelling content in her new role.

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