Retailers beware: Mobile drives holiday shopping season

Mobile shopping already was ahead of expectations in the weeks leading up to the official start of the holiday season in the U.S.

Adobe’s Digital Index showed that 46 percent of online retail visits Nov. 1-24 came from a smartphone (35 percent) or tablet (11 percent). Mobile generated some $6.3 billion in online sales during that time.

It should come as no surprise that this trend continued during the recent five-day stretch that included Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Consumers once again showed they’d rather sit at home in their pajamas to shop for holiday gifts than face unnecessary travel and large crowds at shopping centers. This behavior, in turn, shows retailers they should get their mobile strategies on track if they have not done so already.

Here’s a glimpse of what retailers experienced during the recent five-day span:

• The NRF 2015 Thanksgiving Weekend Survey found that 56.7 percent of smartphone owners used their device to research products, make purchases, check in-store availability of items, and to conduct other mobile shopping activities. Some 57.7 percent of tablet owners used their device to search for holiday deals and make purchases.

• Adobe said that mobile devices accounted for 49 percent of online shopping visits on Cyber Monday, but reported fewer actual purchases from those devices. Smartphones accounted for $313 million in purchases on Cyber Monday. Consumers purchased $205 million via iPhones and $107 million via Android. The large discrepancy between the platforms supports the argument that Apple users are more affluent consumers.

• Adobe estimates that consumers spent more than $11 billion in online sales for the five-day period. That’s an increase of 15 percent from 2014.

• IBM said that while online sales slowed on Cyber Monday because consumers started shopping over the weekend, smartphones accounted for 15 percent of Monday’s purchases. Adobe said that retailers sold a little over $3 billion in goods on Cyber Monday.

What does this all mean?

1. The mobile shopper’s rise to prominence puts retailers under pressure to provide a purchasing experience that comes across as intuitive to consumers using smartphones and tablets. Executives who spoke at the recent Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas hammered this point home across many panel discussions. The message was this: If you don’t have a coherent mobile strategy in place right now, you might as well close up shop today.

2. Consumers who browse for deals on their mobile devices don’t necessarily purchase them from a smartphone or tablet. Retailers still have an opportunity to lure consumers into their physical locations. But that’s a double-edged sword because showrooming is alive and well with consumers despite some retailers’ willingness to price match on the spot. Consumers love to comparison shop on the go. Most won’t think twice about making a two-minute walk across the street to save $5 at a different stor

3. Adobe predicts that shoppers will spend almost $1 billion per day online until Christmas. Retailers still have time to tweak their mobile strategies.

The consumer’s shopping experience now more than ever starts on a mobile device. Even if a consumer never intends to make a purchase from the device, they’re using the mobile Web at least to comparison shop. The next step for retailers and payments providers is to make the mobile checkout process easier. We could see even greater gains next year in mobile purchases as a result.

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