Will Mobile Shoppers Still Lead Marketers This Holiday?

After the last holiday shopping season, some agencies and brands were surprised at what happened.

Some saw unexpected patterns of mobile and tablet usage, both for shopping and commerce itself.

Marketers do their best to plan in advance, but consumers tend to do their own thing, especially when it comes to mobile behaviors.

However, with the holidays rapidly approaching, year-end research is adding up -- pointing to some indicators of expected mobile behavior, with some comparisons to last year.

The behaviors may matter even more this year, since holiday sales are expected to be larger, according to the National Retail Federation, which pegs the increase over last year at 4%. Of all holiday sales, mobile-influenced stores sales will account for 5%, according to Deloitte.

Shoppers with smartphones are 14% more likely to make a purchase in the store than those who don’t use a smartphone in the shopping process, says Deloitte. This begs the question of how shoppers will be using their mobile devices this holiday season.

Here are some insights revealing what shoppers plan to do with their mobile devices this season, according to research from Foresee:

  • 39% will use mobile sites and apps more often than last year to research products.
  • 26% will use mobile more than last year to do research while in physical stores.
  • 21% will use mobile more than last year to purchase products.
  • 18% will use mobile more than last year to locate stores.

Maybe it’s a holdover from using the Web for so long, but mobile consumers still lean toward using retailers’ Web sites via mobile (68%) compared to using the retailers’ apps (32%). And what a difference a year makes in mobile.

Last year, only 3% planned to use mobile as their shopping channel of choice, according to a recent study by MarketLive. This year, 16% plan to use mobile for overall gift buying, compared to 19% who plan to buy in the store. The mobile devices of choice are evenly split between smartphones and tablets. Additional insights: 

  • 21% plan to purchase gifts via mobile device, almost double compared to last year.
  • 43% plan to redeem coupons when making an in-store purchase.
  • 28% plan to research gifts on mobile during a store visit.
  • 18% plan to purchase gifts as a result of a text message from the retailer.

The top categories from which gifts are likely to be bought through mobile are clothing and accessories, books/magazines, computer hardware and software and consumer electronics, according to the MarketLive study. The categories with the least mobile activity are pet supplies, luxury items, jewelry/watches and health and beauty items.

However, marketers and retailers will be missing the boat if they expect all shopping to occur in the store. Twenty percent plan to research gifts on mobile before even going to the store, according to MarketLive. The research found that shoppers this holiday season plan to do their homework on mobile before heading off to the store, including:

  • 42% checking for sales and specials.
  • 41% look for competitive pricing at Amazon.
  • 37% look up store information.
  • 37% browse an online store for product of interest.
  • 35% look for competitive prices on products at retailers online other than Amazon.

This holiday season it looks like retailers will not only be faced with mobile savvy and active showroomers in their stores, but also will have to factor in marketing efforts to reach the mobile shopper before they even get there.

Many consumers are becoming experienced in couch commerce. For example, more than two-thirds of Apple and Barnes and Noble visitors accessed the mobile site or app from home, while 27% of Walgreens and a quarter of Target visitors did the same.

Mobile is a retail game-changer, transforming the entire shopping process of researching, price comparing and buying to one of all-the-time, without location dependence. Agencies, brands and retailers that don’t account for this will be surprised in January yet again.

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