The Planets Are Aligning For Mobile Shopping This Holiday Season

mobilexmasMarketers are known for demanding ROI and previous results before they embrace new strategies, but they're going all-in on the assumption that mobile will be a far more prosperous channel this year than in previous holiday seasons.

Industry analysts like eMarketer project a strong holiday for retailers, with mobile commerce expected to grow 32.2% over last year, compared to ecommerce overall, which is pegged to rise 14.2%. This also is expected to be the first year when Google’s mobile shopping search outpaces its desktop search.

A combination of marketer technology and consumer tech trends contribute to this confidence, said Rob Deichert, managing director of North American operations at Criteo. “This is the first full year of the [iPhone 6 Plus] and bigger screen sizes, plus we’ve gone through a mobile upgrade cycle. All of these things are coming together that elevate mobile.”

Consequently, major platforms are hitting the market with new shopping ad products and targeting tools for retailers. Consider YouTube’s shoppable video expansion to AdWords, Facebook’s dynamic news feed product ads and Instagram’s new “Marquee” customer targeting.

Beyond ad tech products, the increased adoption of app deep linking, buy buttons, shopper attribution funnels, beacons and point-of-sale tech pushes more spending into mobile.

Even if retailers aren’t entirely sure how these tech innovations will drive mobile shopping, and even though online buying won’t supersede in-store buying, even smaller ecommerce shops want to be a part of the growth, said Joe Migliozzi, a managing director of Shop+, the retail division with the GroupM agency Mindshare.

“There’s going to be such a frenzy of consumers,” he said.

Consumer spending on Black Friday and Cyber Monday is expected to grow and set US records, with Cyber Monday alone projected to bring in $3 billion. But George Chang, SVP of sales and marketplace at Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten, predicted that those days will actually represent less steep spikes when looking back on sales made in November and December.

“We see it as more of a Black November,” he said. “In terms of how people spend dollars and go to market, you’ll see a more consistent approach throughout November across all channels.”

Migliozzi said he wouldn’t be surprised if Black Friday, that idolatrous celebration of brick-and-mortar shopping, ends up looking like a bigger win for ecommerce this year. “People just expect sales now. Black Friday delivers that, and mobile delivers that very well too.”

“Many retailers have been doing promotions the same way for years, decades even,” said Michael Jones, SVP of retail and brand solutions at RetailMeNot, the mobile coupon platform. But according to Jones, huge strides have been made in how brands or retailers can target promotions.

For instance, in the not-so-recent past, omnichannel marketing may have been as straightforward as making sure the same discounts from the store applied online. Now brands can do things like bundle digital promotions as a way to dynamically meet a customer’s price point based on purchase history.

Chang said Rakuten has integrated its discount and special offers like rapid shipping much more structurally into the business, using targeted deals as a way to relieve supply chain burdens. He compared it to how countries can relieve strain on electric grids by giving tax credits to use high-energy appliances like washing machines at night.

Deichert similarly noted that he’s seen retailers make decisions about adjusting or targeting sales offers based around clearing inventory in specific stores or regions.

Mobile commerce is good for converting spot sales, but that can also be a concern for retailers. For instance, RetailMeNot’s customers are much more value-oriented than a typical in-store shopper, said Jones, and the platform caters to consumers loyal to a sale value as opposed to a retail brand.

Some tech companies can benefit from that. Michael Jaconi, CEO and co-founder of the deep-linking specialist Button, said it gives his startup a chance to pitch retailers on a service that brings customers back to the retailer’s own property, where there’s a better chance they fill a cart.

“I’m very convinced from our data and from retailers that you’re going to find smartphones dominated the shopping season,” said Jones. “It’s hard to predict where the money is going to be spent exactly … but people are figuring out how to get customers to start and end the shopping journey on mobile.”


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