Mobile Holiday Shopping by the Numbers

This past Sunday, with Black Friday looming on the horizon, Google made an announcement: in response to an increase in mobile shopping searches, it’s providing more detailed product information to better inform shoppers pre-purchase. In addition to an “expandable product card” that includes customer reviews, Google is delivering local inventory ads to tablet users to help them locate products close to home – creating more opportunities for retailers to reach holiday shoppers in the process.

This was one of countless mobile developments that have come to light in advance of this holiday season, most of which are designed to improve the mobile experience and capitalize on the shopping shift from desktop to mobile. Walmart revealed that it’s making its Black Friday store map available on its mobile app during sales event hours. Macy’s is using its mobile app to support a contest: “It goes back to the customer and how she wants to interact with the brand,” the retailer’s chief marketing officer said.

Last year, almost 40 percent of all Black Friday traffic came from mobile devices, up 34 percent from 2012. Mobile sales, meanwhile, represented almost 22 percent of total online sales last year, a number that’s expected to continue to climb.

Google, too, has some new stats to share on mobile shopping and what we can expect from the upcoming holiday season. According to its data, the company says we’re about to experience the most mobile-driven shopping season in history. About 50 percent of consumers between the ages of 25 and 34 currently shop or browse on their mobile phones while standing in line to make a purchase in-store. And shopping-related Google searches that originate on smartphones have more than tripled in the past year.

It’s plain that mobile shopping isn’t a trend. Consumers are proving they’re serious about buying with the help of smartphones and tablets – both online and off. According to a recent survey conducted by research firm Bizrate Insights, a division of Connexity (formerly Shopzilla), online shoppers aren’t just interested in buying on a smaller screen but very open to the idea of paying with a smartphone as well.

Forty percent of respondents said they approve of services like the newly launched Apple Pay, whether or not they currently own the iPhone 6 into which it’s built. More than 50 percent of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners confirmed that they would try Apple Pay as they believe it to be “more secure” than using a credit card in-store.

Generation X and Millennial consumers are particularly responsive to a touchless payment solution. Forty-six percent of Generation X shoppers and 54 percent of Millennials support the idea of mobile phone payments versus carrying a wallet. “That 40 percent of American online buyers are interested in paying via a cell phone for purchases shows that convenience is a strong force for consumers – and a big unmet need,” said Hayley A. Silver, vice president of Bizrate Insights. “What retailers can do today is understand the costs and the implementation requirements for the leading options.”

This holiday shopping season alone, 30 percent of U.S. smartphone owners plan to use either Apple Pay or Google Wallet when shopping for goods. Additionally, 17 percent said they expected to spend more as a result of going the mobile payment route.

With mobile devices now so deeply entrenched in the shopping experience, what can marketers do to prepare for the season to come? Here are a few ideas.

  • Leverage mobile ad targeting. Consumers are using their devices both to conduct research and shop online – but time is short. Pointing potential customers to a product that’s in a nearby store can go a long way toward securing a sale.
  • Take advantage of the in-store mobile browsing trend. Look for ways to attract shoppers and convert their interest into a purchase. For inspiration consider Best Buy, which will match a price if a customer shows the lower-priced item on their tablet or phone, or Sephora, which uses the StepsAway app and free makeovers to turn a visit to the mall into a visit to its store.
  • Re-engage existing app users with ads. Shoppers who have already downloaded your app are primed to make a purchase. Most brands are still prioritizing app install ads over ads designed to engage, but that means they’re missing an opportunity to build loyalty and drive sales. Social media ads and rewards aimed at mobile app users can help.

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