Why Retailers Will Embrace the New Mobile Consumer This Holiday Season

As we head toward the unofficial end of summer, retailers from around the country are putting the finishing touches on their Q4 holiday marketing plans. Many of those last minute adjustments will likely be centered around more budgets, and testing for any and everything mobile. Here’s why.

Mobile’s Influence Is Rapidly Accelerating

Mobile continues to make its mark as consumers increasingly turn to their do-it-all smartphones to seek information, comparison shop, and purchase goods and services. Consider the following:

  • According to IBM’s Eighth Annual Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report, mobile traffic to retail websites reached 47.4 percent in March 2015, up from 28.7 percent in March 2013. Additionally, mobile sales approached nearly 25 percent as of March 2015, almost double the rate in March 2013. 
  • One-third of shoppers use mobile exclusively and more than half consider mobile the most important resource in the purchase decision process.
  • About half of consumers want to receive real-time promotions while they’re in store, but only 5 percent of retailers have this capability.

App Utility, Value, and Technology Investments Are Expanding

After a slow start, retailers are jumping on the innovation train. They are becoming more adept at using mobile technology, and expanding their app utility and functionality to embrace mobile holiday shoppers. 

  • Integrated store maps, loyalty programs, wish lists and guaranteed lowest price match policies are a few things driving downloads, increases in engagement, and retail app usage.
  • Beacon tests are accelerating. Mass-merchant Target recently announced its latest move to leverage mobile technology to create “a smarter, more convenient, and inspiring in-store shopping experience” by adding beacons to 50 of its locations nationwide. If consumer feedback is positive, Target has already thought about future functionality. That functionality will include the ability to dynamically re-sort a shopping list based on the user’s location, maps with indoor re-routing to help shoppers find the things they need, and the ability to request service directly from their smartphones.
  • In addition, beacons are expected to directly influence over $4 billion worth of U.S. retail sales this year at top retailers, with that number expected to increase ten-fold in 2016
  • 84 percent of banks and retailers plan to invest in mobile technology within the next 18 to 24 months.
  • According to Aite Group, in-store mobile payments are expected to triple in the U.S. from $7.5 billion in 2015 to $22.4 billion in 2016. By 2020, mobile payments are projected hit a staggering $487 billion. 
  • Investments in mobile marketing are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38 percent, reaching nearly $8.3 billion by 2016, according to Forrester Research.

Focus Shifts to Building Better Experiences

Let’s face it: brand experiences will be defined by a series of moments in our increasingly mobile-first/only world. For leading retailers, this means winning customer experiences are all about making the best of each moment.

Forrester Research defines mobile moments as “points in time when people use a mobile device to get what they want in their immediate context.” I would probably extend this definition to also include a brand proactively equipping customers with meaningful information or utility at a time when they need it. To take it even further, mobile moments and mobile customer experiences are just parts of the overall customer experience within the minds of consumers. Retailers who fail to live up to the challenge by delivering poor mobile moments risk losing consumers to the competition.

In the past, a retail marketer’s ability to deliver quality mobile moments was hobbled by gaps in infrastructure, data, and execution. Today, it’s a different and better story. The ubiquity of smartphones, prevalence of WiFi, emergence of beacons, and proliferation of mobile app usage has put mobile on the fast track.

As holiday efforts continue to ramp up, look for more innovative app enhancements, increased signage in-store and cross promotions encouraging SMS sign-ups, app downloads, and usage. Mobile options will also integrate into traditional print and TV advertising efforts and promotions, as retailers look to embrace the new mobile holiday shopper – one moment at a time.

For those other retailers lagging behind the market leaders you can check out my column, The 5 Imperatives For Mobile Success, for tips on how to get started. You, too, can maximize each and every mobile moment.

Homepage image via Shutterstock

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