If there is one new consumer behavior that is going to drive change in digital marketing in 2012, it will be tapping the “Buy” button on a smartphone or tablet.
The first part of the big story, told everywhere this season, is the mobilization of the shopping experience, with people leveraging the smartphone in-store and using the tablet as a catalog browsing device. The next piece is when real buying takes place from the phone, because that will activate even more of the money and effort that is already flowing into mobile. Once the phone or tablet actually becomes the point of sale, the rush to message to consumers and funnel them your way will be on.
Consumers are already getting there, according to personalization provider RichRelevance. Its survey of 3.4 billion shopping sessions between April and December this year shows an incredible acceleration of m-commerce. In April, 1.87% of online retail sales were attributable to mobile devices; in December that metric had leaped to 3.74%. It is not the total that is stunning so much as the sheer velocity with which consumers appear to be growing comfortable transferring their Web buying habits onto the device.
RichRelevance handles personalization for 10 of the top 25 retailers online, plus many others across the board of small businesses and boutiques. Personalizing the site experience shows the full path of a user session, from home page to checkout, and the company can aggregate the anonymous data across many retail types.
RichRelevance CEO David Sellnger says that mobile traffic to retail sites has doubled since April, and that mobile shopper accounted for as much as 18% of all shoppers on peak days in December. Apparently weekends are especially important. “Advertisers and retailers need to pay close attention to the ‘shop on the couch Sundays,’ as consumers continue to use their tablets and smartphones as a direct adjucnt to their consumption of television media," he notes. Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 18, on average 14% of online shoppers were using mobile devices.
The subplot of this holiday’s mobile story is the emergence of the tablet as a force. We will see after the gift-giving is over how much Amazon’s hot Kindle Fire entry helps fragment the market, but for now it remains an iPad world. RichRelevance reports that iOS generally is dominating the mobile traffic among shoppers. The iPad was responsible for 92% of sales in December so far, and is far and away the leading source of mobile shopping traffic, accounting for about 10% of e-retail activity now. iPhone and iPod only tick up 3%. This is an important distinction. When we refer to “mobile” shopping, henceforth it will be important to distinguish between smartphone and tablet. Average order value on iPads is higher ($124) than on iPhone/iPod ($112) as well. Android's order value averages $101.
RichRelevance’s numbers are already pointing to the next chapter in this ongoing saga of digital activity migrating onto mobile platforms: second-screening. Laptops were always known to be in living rooms and to some degree part of the TV ritual for a part of the viewing population. Mobile touch devices and their intimate, habitual qualities, change the game and turn the device into a reliable second screen to the most lucrative marketing medium of them all. Having that second screen potentially distracting viewers from or complementing the TV experience is something no media buyer can ignore.