Merry Mobile Shopping

From all appearances, it seems that Santa’s sleigh bells are ringing in 2012 as the year that holiday shopping went mobile. In comparison to 2011, research is predicting that we’ll be seeing twice as many consumers using their mobile devices to buy holiday gifts this year. It’s no wonder.

According to recent findings explored in the IAB’s second annual “Mobile Shoppers” study, U.S. smartphone ownership took a sharp uptick since 2011, rising to 68 percent of consumers owning a smart mobile device vs. 57 percent last year.

Throughout the year, these smartphones have been at the center of our lives, as an on-the-go resource and utility dashboard. But when the going gets tough – especially when the going gets a hefty dose of shopping lists and tinsel – that’s when mobile really gets going.

No one is surprised that mobile shoppers are turning to their devices for product information and to seal the deal, making purchases while waiting at the doctor’s office, or online at the local coffee shop. Now, though, the palm of your hand might also be the best place to turn if you’re looking for a good deal.

Armed with a toolkit of local mobile advertising technologies, such as geo-fencing, barcode-reading apps, NFC, and QR codes, retailers and brands will be able to quickly deliver deals targeted to consumers’ needs and better pricing than ever before.

We’ve talked about the promise of mobile for so long, and now that promise seems to be coming to fruition on Main Street. Walk by a store with the latest gadgets in the window, and get a discount delivered to your inbox as you go inside. Pass a promotional display for a product you know your daughter longs for, flash your phone screen by the Rorschach-like QR code, and get an instant discount.

Research points to consumers using their smartphones in stores for a number of things: contacting friends or family about a purchase, checking prices, accessing social media, and redeeming mobile offers, just to name a few.

In terms of mobile shopping, gender doesn’t seem to play a role. Both women and men are engaged in mobile retail therapy – 49 percent of men vs. 51 percent of women.

Differences seem to be more geographic in nature, with some American cities standing out from the smartphone-carrying crowd. This is the second year we published the “IAB U.S. Mobile Shopping Savvy Cities Index,” ranking urban centers coast to coast based on ownership of a mobile device (primarily smartphones or tablets), propensity to be influenced by mobile coupons, ownership of a mobile retail app on a handset or tablet, and ownership of a mobile social media app.

For the last two years, Houston has been the number one city. Why is this? Hard to know, but we think it may have something to do with the city’s urban planning and the distance between brick-and-mortar retail locations, or perhaps the tech-centric focus of its population. Seattle-Tacoma took the number two spot, with San Francisco rounding out the top three.

Does their status mean that marketers shouldn’t move ahead with mobile campaigns in cities like Minneapolis-St. Paul and Phoenix, which were at the bottom of the list? The answer is a resounding “no.”

As this year’s “Mobile Shoppers” study proves, mobile shopping is on the rise. If Santa’s sleigh bells can be heard around the globe, I think we can expect to hear the sounds of consumers collectively tapping on their mobile devices to make sure there is something under the tree.

Mobile Shopping image on home page via Shutterstock.

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