This post is part of a five part series about what smart retail marketers are doing this holiday season to not only increase sales, but also strengthen customer relationships. Want all the info in one place? Download our eBook now: The Retailer's Ultimate Guide to Holiday Marketing
In the predawn hours after Thanksgiving, the mobs will gather again this year at Wal-Marts and other major retailers around the United States – the official kickoff of the holiday shopping frenzy of 2013. Savvy marketers, however, will have their eyes on another mob altogether – the swarms of digital shoppers who will be researching, browsing and purchasing gifts on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices in greater numbers than ever before.
A new era for experience and engagement
By Black Friday, U.S. consumers will be leading what's projected to be a banner holiday season. Total holiday sales are expected to reach $640 billion, according to BizReport, an 11 percent jump from 2012, and more than 43 percent higher than the recession rock-bottom holidays of 2009. But rising consumer confidence isn't the only reason customers are expected to start purchasing gifts as early as Halloween – mobile devices are playing a much bigger role.
Consumer buying habits are changing fast in the mobile marketing age. Nearly half of online retail traffic in the first three months of 2013 came from smartphones or tablets, according to comScore. But that doesn't mean people are clicking "Buy Now" from their mobile device, exactly; eMarketer estimates m-commerce sales will hit $9.8 billion in November and December, or roughly 16 percent of total online holiday sales. But it means they're always looking for the perfect gift or a bargain, whether from their phone, tablet or laptop.
This presents retailers with a huge opportunity to engage customers 24/7 in new and creative ways this holiday season. Consumers today have access to more information than ever about products – from reviews and prices to shipping rates. To stay ahead of the competition, retailers have to be smart about when they engage with their customers and how – especially on mobile devices since consumers have shown an exceedingly low tolerance for bad experiences on their phones or tablets.
Sending SMS messages and alerts can play an important role, but retailers must innovate, customize and listen to customers to successfully reach them on mobile, and convert those interactions into sales.
5 ways to engage during the holidays
Here are some mobile strategies for retailers to consider this holiday season:
- Prioritize tablets over smartphones. Tablets like the Apple iPad or Microsoft Surface offer a much better user experience, thanks to larger screens and easier navigation. Conversion rates on tablets are three times higher than on smartphones, according to a study by BrightEdge Mobile Share. eMarketer reports that 63 percent of all tablet owners have bought a product or service from their device, compared to just 39 percent of smartphone users.
- Optimize for a mobile experience. Consumers who aren't satisfied with a brand's mobile website experience seek out a competitor: Fifty-two percent of mobile users report abandoning a brand after a poor mobile experience, and 48 percent said they feel like a low priority if a site isn't mobile-friendly, according to a Google study. “Each time we give our customers a negative online experience, we make it easier for them to choose an alternative solution for their purchasing,” says Wacarra Yeomans, Director of Creative Services at Responsys. To present a good experience, retailers should, above all, optimize their websites for mobile viewing. Make mobile websites useful by, for example, enabling customers to click on a phone number that automatically calls customer service, and integrating responsive design to optimize the layout and format for the device being used.
- Experiment with SMS. SMS messages are a great way to engage with customers and earn their trust – as long as the alerts are targeted and relevant. Entice customers to sign up for SMS messages with QR codes and promotions displayed in physical stores, in email messages and through electronic receipts. The promise of shipping and delivery alerts works – and can draw last-minute shoppers to opt-in with their phone numbers.
- Offer in-store Wi-Fi. Nine out of 10 smartphone shoppers used their devices to buy products while at a brick-and-mortar store, according to a report from JiWire. In response, retailers are providing free Wi-Fi so consumers can search the brand's website for additional styles, sizes or collections and then purchase the products found online – all while standing in the company's store. Last season, JCPenney, Target and Saks introduced in-store Wi-Fi, and this year more will follow their lead. Of course, shoppers could then buy from a competing website, but retailers are increasingly recognizing that the benefits of higher mobile sales and a great customer experience outweigh the risk of losing business to a rival.
- Add location-based services and offers. Delivering last-minute deals or sneak peeks at exclusive collections via geo-targeting is also key to attracting new customers and keeping existing ones happy. Yet, only 15 percent of retailers offer location-based apps, according Econsultancy. That's a mistake. Twelve percent of Wal-Mart's online revenues now come from customers who are physically in one of its stores, thanks to a geo-fencing app that has a "store mode," according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. What's more, location-based services can also trigger coupons and notifications to be sent across channels – to email, SMS and Apple’s Passbook app.
To learn more tips and tricks for your holiday marketing in 2013, check out our eBook or on-demand webcast about how to get bigger results this holiday season.