Shopping has entered a new era, evolving to accommodate a soaring fanatic mobile user base and rapidly improving capabilities of smartphones and tablets. The 2013 holidays were no different. IBM reported that Thanksgiving weekend set records for mobile sales and traffic, accounting for nearly 40% of online traffic, as well as nearly one-third of all online traffic on Cyber Monday.
As a marketer, the critical question to consider is this: Did you get a piece of this holiday pie, or were you left out in the cold with just a piece of coal to show for your troubles?
Now that the holiday season is behind us, here are lessons about what marketing teams can do to make the holidays in 2014 even merrier.
Photos on mobile are the new "holiday window shopping." Consumers scurry along sidewalks that are bustling with shoppers to scan interesting products in windows. Wanelo, for instance, is an extremely popular mobile app because it features photos that users flip through as if they're window shopping. Marketers can expect to see the "view and swipe" shopping experience become ubiquitous, especially as marketers use big data to put the right products in front of customers to minimize the need to search and filter.
Tinder got this approach right as a dating app, and Tumblr has skyrocketed because it's driven by visual images. People don't want to read a list of names with one-sentence greetings next to small thumbnail photos. They want to swipe through full-size pictures and tap a single button to say whether they're interested or not.
That experience of visual, quick-swipe shopping will likely be replicated throughout 2014, especially leading up to the holiday season.
A recent study found that 88% of shoppers have researched a product online or on mobile, then bought it in brick-and-mortar stores. That trend, known as "web-rooming," is becoming increasingly common as people browse from the privacy of their own homes. Some 55% of parents who own smartphones expect to check availability of items on mobile before going to a store to make purchases. Then, with research in hand, they purchase gifts inside the store.
Often, consumers prefer to buy products in person because they need to see them, try them on, test them, etc. That preference is most common for clothing, electronics, and appliances.
Marketers must address the issue with tried-and-true strategies: ensuring all prices and promotions are the same online as they are in-store; helping customers add items to their wish lists for access in-store; and showing customers whether the merchandise they're interested in is stocked on store shelves.
Make the online shopping experience as close to an in-person shopping experience as possible by having websites act as virtual salespersons that can tell customers all they need to know.
Mobile optimization is no longer an option. In addition, nearly one in every five e-commerce sales was made on mobile during the 2013 holidays.
In a recent study, The Search Agency found only nine of Fortune 100 brands have mobile sites with responsive Web design. Furthermore, the average page load time was approximately five seconds. However, if page loads take three seconds or longer, 57% of viewers are likely to drop off and go somewhere else.
User expectations are increasing and will continue to do so. Consumers demand mobile-friendly layouts, easy navigation, and instant page loads. Failure to accommodate those expectations risks a significant drop in mobile website success—not just during the holidays, but every day of the year.
According to eMarketer, only 39% of smartphone owners have made a purchase on a smartphone, compared with 63% of tablet users who have made purchases on tablets. And although tablets are mobile devices, nearly 75% of purchases on tablets are made at home, most often on the couch, and that was again the case this past holiday season.
Thus, "couch commerce" is emerging as a significant retailer focus. Because of the increasing number of tablets in the market, volume of tablet users, likelihood to purchase, and superior shopping experience on a larger screen, tablets are becoming the go-to option for online shopping, holidays or otherwise.
Perhaps the most relevant and important tip of all at this point is that you should be engaged year-round with your audience.
Much of the mobile holiday retail battle is won well before the holidays. In many cases, the most successful marketers will have already built connections on social media earlier in the year, alongside positive, somewhat frequent interaction with customers on mobile.
That way, holiday strategies aren't built on a foundation of pure tactics but, rather, a network of relationships.
So, in 2014 remember that year-round engagement will give you a leg up on competitors, and it also better equips you to understand which products and promotions will be most appreciated the closer we get to Christmas.
Marketers who capture holiday shoppers will pay attention to those same customers throughout the year—not just during December.
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