This holiday season, retailers will see the impact on their business of growing mobile Internet access - and our data shows it's likely to be dramatic. Especially on weekends, shoppers will be checking product availability, price, and reading online reviews while at the mall, standing in your store, or standing in your competitor's store. There's still time to take a few simple steps to ensure you benefit from that new reality and convert more shoppers doing purchase research on their mobile devices.
Disrupting the Previous Norm
In previous holiday seasons, customers would do research before leaving home to find a retailer who was carrying the product they were looking for at the price they were looking for. Once they'd made the commitment to drive to the store, park, walk across the parking lot with kids in tow, and enter the store, consumer research shows that more than 90 percent would make a purchase. A customer would leave without buying anything only if what they were looking for wasn't in stock or if the checkout lines were too long.
But now, smartphones have arrived - 40 percent of adults use the Internet, e-mail, or instant messaging on a mobile phone (up from the 32 percent of Americans who did this in 2009), according to the "Mobile Internet, 2010" study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. With that rise in mobile Internet access via smartphones, the pattern for research and shopping is changing. This holiday season, it will be common for customers to do their research in real time, on site, while they're making their purchase decision. They can walk into a store, find what they came for and, instead of putting the product into their cart, look it up on their mobile. They'll find out what other retailers (online or brick-and-mortar) are carrying the product, at what price, and read the customer reviews - which may tell them that a competitive product is rated higher. Will 90 percent of them still buy something in that first store they visit? Not likely. Why? Because now, unlike in the past, they can walk out of the store with confidence they can buy a better product, find the product they came for in stock elsewhere, or get a better price at another store or even online - and still get it delivered by Christmas.
Mobile +500 Percent Growth Rate
We've all seen data that confirms consumers are using mobile in the shopping process. On our consumer portal, users accessing the site via mobile devices have doubled every six months compared to desktop traffic. What's more, during this peak shopping period leading up to and through Cyber Wednesday, we've seen mobile access to ratings and reviews increase by more than 500 percent compared to the same time last year.
Dramatic Changes in Access Patterns
Desktop access to our consumer portal is still more common on Monday and Tuesday, the peak online shopping days, but mobile access to the site is increasing rapidly on these days, as well. What's especially interesting is the comparison between mobile access during the week versus on weekends - the peak sales days for offline retailers. On Saturdays and Sundays, consumers are accessing reviews on mobile devices 30 percent more often than on the average weekday. During the recent holiday weekend (Black Friday through Sunday, Nov. 29), mobile traffic to product reviews was up 120 percent over the weekday mobile traffic average. What's going on? Customers are using their mobile devices to research and make purchase decisions while standing in a store!
Aligning Your Communications Strategy With the New Reality
What can you do this late in the season to ensure you're reaching shoppers doing product research on their mobiles? Even now, when you're locked down for the holidays, there are a few simple steps you can take.
Listen, if Santa is doing last-minute research in his sleigh on Christmas Eve, the only way you're going to reach him is on his mobile. Don't miss out.
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Cathy has over 20 years of experience in both multichannel and online retail and a deep understanding of consumer needs and goals. Cathy's proven track record spans a range of industries and companies, from start-up ventures to multibillion dollar operations. Cathy is currently a Board Member at Ulta Beauty (ULTA), the largest beauty retailer that provides one-stop shopping for prestige, mass, and salon products and salon services in the United States. She has served as SVP, marketing & sales at PowerReviews, the world's most widely deployed social commerce platform, where she was responsible for overseeing the company's rapid customer and revenue growth. Prior to PowerReviews, Cathy held executive-level positions at Walmart: chief marketing officer Walmart.com, vice president of market development, global e-commerce, and vice president of product management and multichannel integration. Ms. Halligan has also held executive positions with leading retailers Williams-Sonoma, Gymboree, and Blue Nile, and was an associate partner at Prophet, a leading management consulting firm. She started her career as a marketing coordinator at Lands' End.
For real-time social commerce news and updates, follow Cathy on Twitter at @CathyHalligan.
March 19, 2014