GUEST OPINION The role mobile will play at Christmas
To everyone outside the world of retail Christmas seems ages away: but in retail terms it is just around the corner. So are you ready? Martin Bolsover, Director, Enterprise Solutions Sales, mGage takes a look at how you should be looking to get the most out of mobile this yuletide
With Christmas feeling like a lifetime away for many consumers, the opposite is true for marketers for whom the Christmas season began a long time ago. Christmas-themed emails have started to trickle into our inboxes, and Christmas goods began to appear on supermarket shelves a few weeks ago, in what felt like the middle of summer. It is therefore not surprising that the speculation around which marketing communication channel(s) will be the most fruitful source of revenue for retailers is well underway.
It seems that consumers are browsing retailers’ websites on mobile devices more than ever before. According to figures from IMRG, traffic to retail websites on mobile has exceeded the traffic generated from a PC for the first time, with 52% of traffic coming from mobile devices. This suggests that consumers are embracing the ability to ‘shop on-the-go’.
Convenience reigns at any time of year
Indeed if the popularity of collecting goods at underground stations is anything to go by (according to an article in the London Evening Standard), it seems that shopping on-the-go provides the answer to time poor shoppers. Consumers have a need for convenience on a daily basis, let alone at Christmas time.
With so many gifts to be bought, the ability to pick goods up at a convenient time and place saves customers from the stress of having to set time aside to go Christmas shopping.
Yet when speculating as to the shopping behaviours that will characterise the festive period, the question must be asked though whether you can really look to day to day shopping habits, over the first 11 months of the year, to determine such behaviours at Christmas? Whilst they may give an indication, Christmas is very much an anomaly in the calendar and shopping habits may stray dramatically from the norm over this period.
To explore this a little further, it is worth looking briefly at two of the main types of shoppers who will emerge over this season.
The Christmas loving shopper vs the time-strapped, queue-loathing shopper
Firstly, there will be those for whom Christmas is their favourite time of year. These shoppers will go out of their way to shop in-store for the atmosphere and experience, irrespective of their usual shopping habits and the convenience and time available.
The second type of shopper will be those who carry out as much of their shopping as possible online (be it on mobile or desktop) and do everything in their power to stay out of the store. This may be because time is their main consideration or it may be because they can’t stand the crowds and queues in-store over this period.
For both types of shopper, their usual shopping habits will not matter.
The opportunity to increase mobile presence over the festive period
Brands must not underestimate the opportunity Christmas presents to consolidate positive shopping experiences customers have had on mobile throughout the year, and to attract and retain new mobile-shopping customers. Marketers must have a Christmas focussed mobile commerce, and mobile CRM strategy, in place to ensure that customers shopping on mobile will not receive a lesser customer experience compared to those shopping in-store. This will encourage repeat behaviour and prompt word of mouth recommendations.
For those shoppers shopping in-store, marketers should communicate with them via mobile, by sending (personalised) location based offers and following up with them after they have made a purchase – be it to check they are happy with their purchase, or to offer a discount or promotion based on past shopping behaviours.
Furthermore, to take advantage of the speculated high traffic to retailer’s websites, brands need to ensure that they can create value for their customers by proving a seamless online shopping experience. To do this, they must focus predominantly on two key areas: time taken to load the website during high traffic and offering secure and efficient payment options.
For marketers, Christmas is the perfect time to encourage mobile payments, and even more so this year with the timely release of the iPhone 6. With some consumers having just received the new iPhone and others due to receive it as a Christmas present, shoppers will no doubt be trying out Apple Pay to purchase gifts or sale items.
Direct billing is another form of mobile payment that marketers should not underestimate. A hassle-free way of purchasing small ticket items such as magazine subscriptions – a popular Christmas gift which will likely be paid for monthly, this is an ideal method of paying for things. The fact that the charge is simply added to customer’s phone bills means they don’t have to worry about entering payment details and is a transaction that can be completed on the move.
So, while we perhaps can’t analyse day-to-day shopping habits to determine what shopping behaviours will look like over the festive period, what is certain is that mobile has a key role to play in the life of every shopper over this season, and marketers must make their mobile strategy a priority to take advantage. Traffic to retailer’s websites, via mobile devices, is likely to remain at least as high as the recent figures show, as consumers are likely to use this as a tool to browse, even if they then purchase the goods in-store.