Mobile Holiday Commerce Continues To Rise, But Lags Behind Search, Research

Although purchases from smartphones and tablets continue to rise, the rate lags far behind search and research adoption rates of the past few years. Some 36% of shoppers participating in a study intend to purchase gifts from their mobile device this holiday season -- up 29% from 2013, and 49% will make purchases based on referrals from friends or family on social sites.

The E-Tailing Group Holiday 2014 Omni-Channel Gift Behavior report sponsored by MarketLive highlights key buying trends for the forthcoming holiday season and provides merchants with a roadmap for engaging shoppers during the next few months.  

"Transactions on smart phones do lag searches performed mainly because consumers are using their smart phones in store to look up more in depth product information like reviews, product videos and product descriptions including sizing and use instructions," said Ken Burke, founder and CEO of MarketLive. "If the consumer is not present in the store they are using the merchants Web site for checking inventory availability, researching products before going to the store, and simply just using the store locator to find the store." 

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About six in 10 consumers will purchase 11 or more gifts this holiday season, and the majority of shoppers will spend between $300 and $500 -- about 24% -- up from 21% in 2013. Some 19% said their budget will range between $501 and $800, up from 21% last year. The study found 65% of survey participants plan to shop online during Black Friday and 70% on Cyber Monday. Only 9% don't plan to shop online at all.

More consumers will rely on smartphones and tablets to research products on search engines and Web sites before making a purchase. In fact, 70% will likely research the gifts on their smartphones they find in retail stores, and 56% are likely to reserve products from their smartphones for pick-up in the store.

How–to or demonstration videos have become a great way to demonstrate how the product works. Laura Martin, managing director at Needham & Co., released research Friday reminding marketers that adding video content to any Web site is an effective way to elongate time spent on site. The average time spent per Web site is about 30 seconds, while the average video is 4 minutes long. Shorter videos can work too, especially on social sites where recommendations matter.

"As the Internet matures, we believe that the core valuation metric will transition toward average time spent, engagement, and away from the number of consumers 'reached,'" Martin wrote in a report.

The E-Tailing Group Holiday study also found that social sites and recommendations will have a greater influence on purchases this year. Some 30% of shoppers have made a purchase via social in the last year, an increase of 12% compared with 2013. Nearly half of survey participants plan to make a purchase because of a social referral, and 44% believe they will discover new products via social networks.

Product reviews have become equally important, with 52% admitting they review products before making a purchase, and 48% think it's important to share product recommendations with friends and family via social channels. About 42% will pin items on Pinterest.

Although free shipping will become important to 71% of survey participants, 68% will look for promotions and discounts to seal the deal.

The 2014 MarketLive holiday shopper survey consisted of a random sample of 1,000 U.S. consumers who had shopped online at least four times within the past year, own a smartphone, and typically spend $250 or more online annually. Questions were completed during September 2014 -- half men and the remainder women. The median age of the sample was 40.6, median household income was $66,146, and 61% attained a college degree or higher.

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