Mobile Shopping Behaviors Still A Moving Target This Holiday

With holiday shopping season around the corner, retailers will have to decide how to gear up for mobile and tablets this time around.

Mobile sales as a percentage of total Web site sales hit 16 percent a month ago, according to the recent IBM Enterprise Marketing Management Fifth Annual Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report, putting mobile solidly on the retail map.

Last year, mobile sales accounted for only six percent of total site sales. What a difference a year can make.

Within the next four years, online sales are projected to hit $327 billion, according to Forrester Research. As a percentage of overall site traffic, mobile devices are expected to drive well over 20 percent of that traffic through the holidays, according to the IBM report.

While the projections show that mobile will play a significant role in retail this holiday season, the real question for retailers and brands for the coming holiday season is how to identify and deal with evolving consumer behaviors being reshaped by mobile.

It is not just the volume of expected purchases made via mobile, but rather the complex number of consumer behaviors that comprise the new shopping experience. 

  • Fast communications. As people shop this holiday season, more will be interacting with friends, family and colleagues through increasingly faster networks as they shop. With U.S. mobile subscribers sending an average of 696 messages a month, according to Shetan Sharma Consulting, it is becoming more natural for peer-influenced purchase decisions. 
  • Fast access. Smartphones and tablets account for more than half (52%) of Wi-Fi use, an increase from 30 percent a year earlier, according to a study from JiWire. Among the most common places for smartphone and tablet usage by consumers: shopping malls. 
  • Mobile TV. Consumers would watch TV programming on their smartphones and tablets, according to research from Mobile Content Venture. A large number (67%) say they would watch more television content if they could view it live on their mobile device wherever they are. Advertisers will have to reach these consumers. Recent research from Pew also found that nearly half of cell phone users are on their phones while viewing TV. 
  • Deals. More of those weekly ad circulars are moving to mobile to deal with the growing digital audience on the move.  A pilot program, which includes retailers such as Target, Walmart, Staples, Lowe’s and Kmart, is from the iCircular group at The Associated Press. The company said the click-through rate at the average retailer was 1,000 percent higher than a traditional mobile ad. 
  • Better deals. More than half (55%) of smartphone shoppers say they use their phones to check prices while shopping, and more than a quarter look at reviews before heading to checkout, according to a study from Empathica. Consumers also  are using more than mobile Web sites as they shop, with Nielsen finding that almost half (47%) of smartphones owners use mobile shopping apps. 
  • In-store payments. Walmart has been testing a new system that allows shoppers to scan items via iPhone and complete their purchase at self-checkout. Google Wallet now can include MasterCard, Visa and American Express cards. Square is moving into Starbucks. Consumers will be faced with new ways to pay via mobile. The capability will become expected. 

These are just a few of the indicators of coming mobile behaviors for the holiday retail season. Shopping will never be the same.

Tags: mobile, retail
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