5 Ways to Win with Mobile This Holiday Season

By Carin Van Vuuren

Special to the eTail Blog

The countdown to the 2012 holiday season has begun. This year, holiday success will be a factor of how well retailers optimize their mobile and multi-channel strategies.

A look back shows that mobile fundamentally changed holiday shopping in 2011, with a 26% increase in online sales on Black Friday, according to an article in Reuters. Per an IBM report, on Cyber Monday, 10.8% of shoppers used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site, up from 3.9% the year before. Last year revealed the importance of synchronizing in-store and online promotional activities to drive success: the same report from IBM revealed that 11% of all online sales in December 2011 originated from a mobile device.

With the empowered consumer poised to conduct even more of his and her holiday shopping on smartphones and tablets in 2012, retailers should consider how to make the most of mobile.

1. Leverage the role of mobile as a shopper’s social hub

While social engagement and browsing the web remain firmly entrenched activities, shopping on mobile devices is increasing steadily. A winning strategy this holiday season will ensure that your mobile web experience capitalizes on the social behavior of the user.

To keep up with increasing consumer expectations of mobile, retailers must take their mobile strategy a step further. It’s abundantly clear that consumers do not want to browse a mini version of your website on the go. Today, minimum requirements on mobile include features like expand and collapse navigation, and high-resolution image galleries with tap-zoom.

Capitalize on the value of social by offering deep integration of social elements with mobile web functionality. Enable users to share their favorite products and purchases with their networks as part of their mobile experience. For example, if a large quantity of your mobile referral traffic is driven from Facebook or Pinterest, consider incorporating overlays on product pages that allow mobile users to easily “Like” or “Pin” their favorite products without having to load a separate page. Allow customers to browse trending items right from the mobile home page, and consider giving them“one-click” access to products that capitalizes even further on the power of social to influence and drive purchase.

2. Create a unique tablet experience that delights your customers

One of the most fundamental recent shifts in e-commerce has been the impact of the tablet. Forrester forecasts that more than 112 million U.S. consumers will own and actively use tablets by 2016. In order to take full advantage of this lucrative shopping device, you have to deliver experiences that are uniquely tailored for tablet.

Instead of making the tablet site a smaller version of your desktop website, take advantage of the opportunity to create a user experience in which your customer can browse, discover and explore promotions, photo books or this season’s catalog. Savvy marketers could extend the impact of their marketing budgets into campaign-like experiences for tablet.

3. Drive mobile engagement in-store

Show-rooming is a trend that has many brick and mortar retailers on their heels, but encouraging shoppers to use their smartphone as a bridge to link the online and offline worlds can turn in-store into a place of opportunity rather than a challenge.

The opportunity for retailers is clear. Deloitte recently reported that 48% of U.S. consumers said their phones influenced their decision to purchase an item in-store. Further, purchases influenced by a mobile device are predicted to increase to $689 billion by 2016 (representing 19% of total store sales).

To take advantage of this, add an on-property mode for your mobile web that gives shoppers a reason to use their smartphones while in the store. Use location-based networks like Foursquare and the phone’s geo-location capabilities to push notifications of special offers that encourage in-store visits. Use QR codes as a way to connect consumers with rich, detailed information about the products and offer targeted in-store promotions to your mobile web users that will keep them shopping where you want them to.

Consider investing in in-store Wi-Fi, and use the opportunity to deliver relevant content to your shopper. Offer in-store users updates on what’s trending at that particular location, and additional information on special events and activities.

4. Use kiosks to remove barriers to purchase

The word kiosk does not mean the same thing it did as recently as five years ago. Today, in-store kiosks can be created in a range of different sizes, and touch-screen technology presents an innovative and more engaging use-case for the customer, allowing them to check stock and to purchase from the full e-commerce site, with the option to ship free to the store. In many ways, tablets can even become a potential kiosk alternative.

Regardless of the hardware solution, it makes sense to have a clear strategy for kiosks in-store. They are a good defense against show-rooming, and are an effective way to extend your full inventory of product into smaller stores with limited or targeted inventory.

The value of kiosks during a busy holiday season should not be underestimated. During this time, when shopper traffic is high and store associates are busy with other customers, kiosks can provide the support and product information needed to ensure an effective and engaging brand experience.

5. Create seamless multi-channel experiences

Successful retailers deliver an integrated customer experience that flows seamlessly across all channels. Consider how you can use mobile web, native apps, tablet and kiosk together to create an engaging, multi-channel experience.

UK retailer Marks and Spencer is a great example of an innovative brand that is adding value through multi-channel marketing. In addition to mobile web and the native app, M&S also enhanced the in-store experience by allowing shoppers to build outfits through in-store touchscreen displays and interactive kiosks. Shoppers can browse, review and save items to their mobile basket and purchase at their convenience.

Within the 360° mobile customer experience, ensure each channel delivers against a specific goal within the customer journey. In store, mobile web is a highly effective channel to connect shoppers to the brand. With this in mind, incorporate the ability to add items to a virtual basket and complete the shopping journey at any time, across all channels and devices. Location functionality, access to in-store Wi-Fi, using QR codes and barcode scanners to scan and drop desired products into a wish-list further enhances the experience and motivates shoppers to continue to browse and shop. Further, geo-fencing can trigger push notification to loyal shoppers with special in-app promotions and offers.

Mobile is Essential to Holiday Success

Multi-channel engagement is the new frontier in m-commerce. To make the most of the upcoming holiday shopping season, now is the time to embrace available mobile technology solutions that can deliver unique experiences across multiple channels and empower consumers to engage on their own terms.

Carin Van Vuuren is the CMO of Usablenet, a New York, Italy and UK-based company that offers a technological platform for transforming and optimizing web content for any mobile device.