What retailers need to know about mobile this holiday season

Sales will increase more than four percent this holiday season over last year, the National Retail Federation predicted last month, and mobile devices will play a larger role than ever in how U.S. consumers shop. The consortium of merchants also reported that 56 percent of smartphone owners plan to use their devices in some way to help them shop during the holidays. But 40.9 percent of consumers said they wouldn’t start shopping until November. We enter the busiest shopping season of the year, retailers should ensure they’re prepared to reach shoppers as effectively as possible through their phones. And they should be focusing on a few crucial areas:

  • Maintain a quality mobile website. A mobile-optimized site enables retailers to reach the vast majority of smartphone owners without incurring the costs of developing multiple apps, and a recent survey from Instart Logic found that 57 percent of Millennials actually prefer to shop using a browser rather than a native app. But many retailers’ sites are far too difficult to use on mobile. Retailers must understand what their customers want from their mobile site, and they must build simple, intuitive sites that make it easy for users to accomplish those things. Additionally, sites should be constantly tested on a variety of handsets for performance, and merchants should use analytics to make improvements to the user experience.
  • Leverage apps by engaging with users. While not every retailer needs a native apps, those that spend the time and money to develop them should actively use them to engage with customers. Apps should call attention to specific promotions and products, and they should give consumers reasons to continue to engage. Retailers should use calls to action to encourage shoppers a reason to engage in the moment, and they should use in-app messaging in an effort to create conversations with customers without barraging them with come-ons. Finally, they should use deep links where appropriate to deliver customers to specific pages within their apps.
  • Embrace showrooming. More than half of consumers in a recent Deloitte survey said they plan to use their smartphones to check and compare prices this holiday season. But a 2012 study found that less than one-third of shoppers who used their phones in the store to compare prices actually bought online to get a better deal from another vendor. Rather than fighting the showrooming trend or trying to compete on price alone, brick-and-mortar merchants must focus on creating a quality shopping experience both online and in the store.
  • Use beacon-based campaigns judiciously. Bluetooth-based marketing enables retailers to reach customers in the store affordably, adding a high-tech, personalized component to the shopping experience. But such campaigns must be deployed thoughtfully and carefully: Retailers should use in-store signage and educated sales staffers to help consumers understand how beacons work, and merchants must deliver value with every “ping.” They must resist the urge to engage with consumers at every turn, and they must constantly be monitoring and tweaking their campaigns as they learn what shoppers value – and what they don’t – from indoor proximity marketing.