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Retailers Go Mobile for Holidays in 2016

by Sabrina Thompson

published on 2016-09-23 13:34:00

Holiday spending is expected to increase by about 3 percent in 2016, with a quarter of those sales being made online. It would mean the largest year-over-year increase in e-commerce since 2011. But this should come as no surprise, given digital sales’ continual climb, pushed further in the past few years by the rise of mobile. 

Last year alone, mobile phones’ slice of the digital pie grew by 9 percentage points, while desktop fell by 6 points. This year, mobile purchases are expected to account for more than 16 percent of purchases. But mobile’s influence goes well beyond making purchases.

Mobile directly influences purchases. Seventy percent of U.S. smartphone owners look to their phones for information before making a relevant purchase in a store. More than 90 percent of those who perform a search for products or services on their phones make a related purchase, either online or in store. Retailers don’t want to miss this opportunity to get in front of shoppers, seizing the opportunity to sway a decision their way – especially when it comes to holiday shoppers. When they begin to shop, nearly seven in 10 of them are totally undecided or considering multiple gift options.

Retailers can optimize mobile campaigns to be seen with messaging that is relevant and catch them when they’re actively searching by including search words like “coupon.” Almost 80 percent of retail searches initiated on mobile devices mention coupons, while more than 70 percent seek sales and 68 percent are looking for discounts. 

Comparison searching, much of which occurs in store and focuses on subjects like price match, return policies and reviews, is initiated on a mobile device at least 77 percent of the time. Retailers can lock in shoppers with geo-fencing real-time promotions to be served up within a radius of their own locations, as well as those of their competitors. Sixty percent of consumers would use real-time promotions served on their mobile device.

Retailers shouldn’t rely solely on holiday shoppers to seek them out, however. The top reason shoppers gave for why they put off their holiday shopping last year was that they still hadn’t decided what to buy. Meanwhile, four in five holiday shoppers use their smartphone during spare moments or while doing other activities, providing multiple opportunities every day to help them make that decision. Retargeted display ads can lead those who have searched for or looked at similar items and services right to a retailer’s doorstep.

As far as when to start and how long to run the campaign, retailers should start early and ramp it up through the season, with a strong post-holiday finish. Sixteen percent of Internet users say holiday promotions started earlier in the year would influence them, but only 10 percent of all holiday shoppers finish their gift shopping by the beginning of December. Two weeks before Christmas, many – if not most – smartphone users will still be using their phones to research gift ideas. Then, there are the two-thirds of holiday shoppers who plan to shop after Christmas sales.

When it comes to the holidays in 2016, retailers need to go mobile. With mobile, retailers can be seen anywhere and everywhere the shopper is, with relevant messaging to bring the holiday shopper to them.

Submitted by Sabrina Thompson, Research Analyst

  1. "Holiday Retail Sales Set for Dramatic Climb" (eMarketer, September 2016)
  2. “Where Will the Mobile Users be Shopping This Holiday” (eMarketer, September 2016)
  3. “How Mobile Has Changed How People Get Things Done: New Consumer Behavior Data” (Google, September 2016)
  4. “Data Suggests Early, Mobile, Search Top Trends for Holiday Shopping” (August 2016)
  5. “This Holiday Season, Watch for These 3 Shopping Trends” (Google, July 2016)
  6. “Top Holiday Trends: Holiday Shopping Survey Results 2015” (Accenture, October 2015)
  7. “90 Percent of Holiday Shoppers Still Have Lists to Wrap Up” (NRF, December 2015)