Moving Targets: Mobile Rewrites the Rules for Holiday Retail
Another holiday retail season is here, and while it may seem like business as usual, don’t be fooled–a growing number of consumers are turning to their mobile devices to shop smarter, which means merchants must wise up as well. A recent survey conducted by nonprofit industry trade group the Mobile Marketing Association and Luth Research indicates that 59 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers will use their handsets in conjunction with seasonal shopping and event organizing (not including voice calls) in 2010, up 25 percent over a year ago. Sixty four percent of respondents say they anticipate using their phone before going to a store and 12 percent expect to use their device to respond to a TV, billboard or newspaper ad–in addition, holiday shoppers will turn to mobile services to pinpoint locations where gifts are sold and to compare prices.
Selling holiday presents to the mobile consumer masses is all about presence–your business must turn up in mobile search results (Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Bing are the three dominant mobile search engines in the U.S.) as well as across location-specific services like Near Me Now, a Google solution introduced earlier this year that identifies retailers, restaurants and other points of interest within the immediate vicinity of a smartphone user’s current whereabouts. Google can be an SMB’s best friend or its worst enemy: Earlier this year, the company said one of every three mobile search queries now includes some element of local-specific intent, so make sure your Google Place Page information is up to date with all the correct contact details, hours of operation, etc. Place Pages also include customer reviews and ratings–and make no mistake, shoppers are quick to weigh in on which businesses are naughty and which ones are nice.
Once holiday shoppers have found you, what gift items are they likely to be looking for? According to the MMA survey, consumers cite products like movies, music, electronics and books as the merchandise categories they plan to target using their phones, so retailers specializing in those items should spotlight that information across their mobile marketing efforts. The MMA adds that Asians, Hispanics and adults ages 25 to 34 are the demographics most likely to use their mobile handsets for holiday shopping and celebration planning, so calibrate your initiatives accordingly.
But while wireless devices will make it easier for consumers to locate the gifts they’re looking for this year, few plan to purchase those items via mobile. Despite the buzz around mobile payment solutions, hype continues to outstrip reality: A Hitachi Consulting/Bank Administration Institute survey published in October reports that 88 percent of U.S. consumers do not presently leverage mobile apps and services to fund in-store purchases, nor do they plan to use them in the next two years–moreover, only 5 percent of consumers even own a mobile device capable of supporting in-store transactions. The simplicity and efficiency of mobile payment platforms will drive widespread adoption in the years to come, but for now the technology looms on the horizon–a chapter in the story of Christmas Future, not Christmas Present.
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