Black Friday Mobilized

Correct me if I am wrong, which I am sure you will, but mobile marketing does not seem especially, um, mobilized for this Friday's annual consumer orgy.

In fact, apart from one or two columns here and there by start-up execs pitching their wares, I have seen little chatter in the industry about the role of mobile in the shopping experience on Black Friday.

It seems a no-brainer. Asking "can I get this cheaper online" or "what are the reviews like" have become retail reflexes for most of us. Arguably, this is the first year where mobile Web use (between 36 million and 43 million of us) has reached a critical enough mass to matter for most retailers. There will be millions of us in-store this Friday, armed with a mobile Internet device and cognizant of its power to run price comparisons, pull in relevant product content, and even serve as a competing, alternative retail channel.

I ran my own Black Friday mobile test run the other day, trying to stuff my bookmarks with retail outlets that offered usable mobile sites I might use in the field this week. It turns out that precious few online retailer sites redirect mobile devices to a friendlier format, even when one does exist for the brand. So shoppers at many major stores will instinctively go to the main dotcom URL and have to suffer the sluggish performance and challenging navigability of a full site on the phones. This is wrong, stupid and a glaring missed opportunity.

A handful of sites I have found do mobile e-tail well. 1800Flowers, for instance, has a mobile site that is woefully unattractive, given its visually striking product, but developer Usablenet seems to have had lowest common denominator phones in mind here. Nevertheless, the site absolutely hits its mobilized target, people who need to order flowers last minute. Ordering a dozen roses (for all of you thoughtless, apologetic cads) is the first menu choice, followed by checking order status and "Need it Today?" At the bottom of the main menu is a big honking direct click-to-call link for going live with a service rep. They know who they are talking to, and they know you probably forgot to send Mom her holiday bouquet. You really are a horrid and ungrateful child!

I love the total Google-like Zen simplicity of BestBuy's mobile portal. A search box and a drop-down store locater are all that greet you at the door. The yellow and blue logo are visible atop every page, but that is it. No pitches and deals, coupons or come-ons. They know you are here because you know them. Perhaps you are in Circuit City (for whom I can't even find a mobile site) and you need to run a price comparison or review check on that Nikon D90. Best Buy Mobile gives me an image, basic specs, a rating and a link to 13 reviews. It doesn't check in-stock status for specific stores yet, but the linkage to my nearest outlet is clean and simple enough to give me all the answers I need long before that clueless sales guy in the red shirt notices I am in the aisle. What I really like about the BestBuy strategy here is to satisfy consumer needs directly and cleanly, without cluttering the experience with cross-sell and promotion. The site has the opportunity to become a real resource for shoppers that ultimately pays off in brand equity. There is no need to sell me anything if they are being of service. This is pure pull.

Hands down, the best mobile comparison shopping engine I have seen thus far on multiple platforms is Slifter. This localized engine maintains excellent databases of big and small stores in your area. Plug in a product like that Nikon D90, and it will return literally hundreds of results that you can filter down by brand or by retailer. Links click through to maps and call buttons. I would love to see it fleshed out with review information and in-stock data, but it serves a core interest of harried shoppers scoping out their options.

1800Flowers, BestBuy and Slifter are all good examples of brands being of service in the mobile realm, not just "extending their brand." In each case, they sacrifice messaging and promotion to sheer utility. By doing this, they become shopping resources that are larger than their actual retail businesses. I envision a day when I can walk into a JC Penney, Sears, Victoria's Secret or Borders and some prompt somewhere will suggest I go to the store's mobile concierge on my phone. There I will find stock status, the location of items in the store, user reviews, and more. It will give me more and better information, quicker and without the attitude of the kids in the colored shirts trying to avoid me in the store aisles.

Tags: mobile
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6 comments about "Black Friday Mobilized".
  1. Stephen Chukumba from Shadow Propaganda , November 28, 2008 at 3:04 p.m.

    Having gone to several Black Friday retailers myself, I was dismayed by the absolute lack of mobile-accessible sites available to shoppers, looking for good bargains.

    I too, was frustrated by the absolutely abysmal load times for standard web pages on my iPhone (and the Edge network didin't help), and would have loved to have had a mobile optimized site to view, with simple easy-to-navigate tabs, instead.

    Perhaps one day retailers will come to understand the need to offer integrated mobile sites, and create greater utility for shoppers looking to take advantage of their offerings via mobile.

  2. Orris Long , November 28, 2008 at 4:19 p.m.

    I agree. Mobile seems absent from the 2008 shopping experience. The light at the end of the tunnel, for me, is the SMS promotion I was sent this morning from Lisena Gaspar at the local T-Mobile shop I purchased my G1 from a little over a week ago.

    There are two things I thought of when I saw this message.

    1) Oh yeah, I need to buy a car charger for my phone.
    2) If nothing else, the carriers get it.

    The reality is, this is an incredibly powerful medium for advertisers for one reason. It works. It allows a company to sell more products. Forget segmenting, analytics, and reporting. Mobile sells.

    We really don't need to complicate things for our clients or prospective clients. It's simple, those advertisers that don't get mobile, will lose marketshare and revenue to their competitors that do.

    If you want proof, I'll give you my numbers at the end of the holiday season, and you can play follow-the-leader for 09'.

  3. Dave Lafontaine from Artesian Media , November 28, 2008 at 5:26 p.m.

    You might want to check out the transcript of the NPR report on the Black Friday shopping frenzy from today (Fri. Nov. 28).

    They had a great anecdote from an older woman who went down to an electronics store with her discount coupons, and managed to get in because she waited in line for hours for the store to open. Once she got in, apparently her extended family found out (thru a call or a text) that she was there, and then they all started texting her to pick them up things as long as she was in the store & had the opportunity to save them money & take advantage of the sales.

    Bottom line? She said that she had only meant to pick up a few things, but would up spending $2,000 more than she planned.

    This is a fantastic opportunity for retailers that they are all missing. If they set up open WiFi spots or made it easy & explicit for people to deputize their friends & family to shop for them when they are on the spot, getting a good deal ...

    It's a way of making a sale remotely, through a trusted agent ... extending this through social networking would leverage through an even wider potential audience ...

  4. Shashi Bellamkonda from Network Solutions , November 28, 2008 at 6:43 p.m.

    Network Solutions has a Black Friday widget where you can see Black friday deals from top websites. On a mobile phone you can see the deal at http://www.bffeed.com . more details are on our blog http://blog.networksolutions.com/2008/network-solutions-and-black-friday/

    Thanks,

    Shashi

  5. David Peterson harvey from The Hidden Art , November 30, 2008 at 1:28 p.m.

    God, I can't agree with you more. And how about realtime updates on stock status at the major retailers, like Wal Mart and Target?

    I went to Target to take advantage of their sale on HDMI cables (for my new HD television) and was met with disappointment. The website showed a cable in stock but the sales people told me the company only updates stock on the website every twenty four hours. In other words, it's useless.

    I went to Wal Mart's site, which clogged up my phone and took forever. I found a decent deal on a cable in stock and, forewarned by my Target experience, called. They went to look for me, leaving the phone off the hook, and someone hung it up. When I got to the store, the sales people had no knowledge of the brand listed on their site and had never had it in the store, though the site showed it in stock in their store. They were able to hook me up with a cable at three times the price I would have paid at Target had they been properly stocked.

    I can't believe major retailers are that clueless and out of touch.

  6. Patricia Vance , December 1, 2008 at 10:23 a.m.

    Another great mobile application for the holidays is m.esrb.org....where you can look up video game rating summaries on your phone from the store floor to make sure you understand all of the content that your child might be exposed to in that video game they wanted for the holidays. Check it out!