The Last Mobile Holiday?

Starting right around Halloween this year, it felt like the industry press was blanketed with stories and research highlighting the importance of mobile for holiday shopping this year.

That’s great, of course. It’s important to highlight not just THAT mobile is changing the way people live their lives and go about both mundane and special activities, but also HOW mobile is changing their lives specifically. Brands, agencies, and media companies all need those details to plan effective strategies, and that’s going to remain true going forward as well. However in terms of a big, newsy story, I would argue that this may be the last “mobile holiday.” Going forward, mobile is going to be so intrinsically a part of the holiday shopping experience for so many people that it just won’t make sense to make the general point any more. Like saying “the sky is blue,” or “Sweden is dark this time of year,” saying “mobile is vital for holiday shopping” is stating the obvious.

That said, there are two findings from the IAB’s most recent study, “Holiday Shopping in a Cross-Screen World,” that are worth calling out as being both particularly important and things I haven’t seen in other holiday-related research so far this year.

Young Guys Have Embraced Mobile Shopping and Purchasing

One surprising finding in the report is that men are more likely to make purchases via their mobiles than women are. This is especially true of younger men. In fact, 76 percent of men ages 18 to 34 report making purchases on their mobile phones, the biggest propensity of any of the age/gender segments. They are relatively big spenders, too, with almost one in four saying they spend more than $100 every month. This elusive demographic segment’s high propensity to shop via smartphone makes it vital that marketers looking to reach this group make mobile a bedrock part of their media plans.

We also asked smartphone owners what, if anything, they planned to shop for, research, or purchase via their smartphones this holiday season. In this again, young guys take the lead, with 90 percent researching, shopping, or buying via their smartphones for the holidays (compared with 65 percent of smartphone owners overall). The big mobile shopping product categories for young guys are music, videos, and/or books (56 percent), consumer electronics (55 percent), clothing (52 percent), and toys and games (49 percent). These are similar to the product categories at the top of the most-cited list for smartphone owners generally, though the exact order and levels of incidence differ.

The Holidays Don’t End on December 25

A second important finding examined what people expected to be doing after Christmas — both mobile-specific and more general. A lot of marketers focus their efforts on the holiday shopping rush, and with good reason. But as a result, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is typically relatively quiet — quieter than it should be, especially as it relates to consumer electronics. In the report, 17 percent of U.S. adults (22 percent of smartphone owners) said they expected to be learning how to use new devices during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. This “New Device Week” constitutes an important learning period, and is a great time to sell apps and other services that will become part of someone’s long-term relationship with their device.

More generally, that week before New Year’s is also a week of family activities, as 58 percent of adults said they expected to be looking for things to do with their families and 47 percent would be shopping at post-holiday sales. In the post-mobile holiday world we live in, you can bet that a lot of that research and investigation will be smartphone or tablet-based, and again, marketers that haven’t planned to reach prospects and customers on the right device at the right time, risk missing an opportunity to influence people as they ring out 2014 and ring in the new year.

Closing Holiday Thought

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking forward to yet more progress with our members, the larger IAB community, and the media ecosystem as a whole as we continue to help everyone in the industry grow and succeed in our increasingly mobile-always world.

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