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The ghost of mobile Christmas past

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It truly is wind down time for Christmas and even hard working retailers are taking a break – for a day at least – it is worth looking back on how mobile this Christmas has been.

The most startling fact, IMHO, is that on 17 December internet traffic in the UK saw a measurable dip when the new Star Wars movie opened: perhaps the only respite retailers got between Prime Day and Christmas eve – the Force is certainly more powerful than many of us assumed.

But in the run up to Christmas we have seen some interesting mobile trends develop. In the past few weeks we have had a load of stats that cover how people shop in the run up to the Yule and they have, across the board, revealed a move towards mobile.

One interesting new development is that the ‘threat of showrooming’ has awoken – much like the Force – and has had a massive impact on retailers’ in store fortunes.

New data from EE suggests 41% of Brits – equivalent to almost 22 million shoppers – regularly ‘showroom’ by using their mobile devices to check for better prices – and a lot more besides – while in-store.

The findings also indicate shoppers appreciate the broader selection of products found online, as 74% of shoppers prefer to browse online rather than in retailers’ physical shops. More than three quarters of shoppers research the best deals online before buying anything, and more than a third prefer to shop online wherever possible.

How retailers deal with this is going to be interesting to see. I guess that at least people are shopping in shops still, which is good, but it looks like the price war started by Black Friday could well continue as retailers seek to attract shoppers with the best deals via mobile. One to watch for 2016.

Another one to watch for 2016 is going to be how mobile marketing around retail grows. It has been predicted that mobile will account for 50 per cent of all digital ad expenditure next year, so you have to be mobile. And that means that your site has to be mobile optimized. Spending money driving traffic to a website that doesn’t work on mobile is like pouring money down the drain. Brands and marketers need to be prepared for the rise of mobile and ensure that this channel is incorporated in their digital strategies.

Apps also need to be rethought within this context. Apps have long been almost shunned by consumers – they like the idea of them, download them then never use them. That seems to be shifting this Christmas.

According to m-commerce platform provider GPShopper app usage and sales were at an all-time high this holiday season, with traffic, revenue and number of orders increasing up to 392% year-over-year.

Furthermore, in-store app usage reached an all-time high, clocking in at five-times the amount of in-store visit typically reported during the holiday.

The figures are born out by a separate study by app commerce platform provider Poq [IRDX VPOQ], which found that, twice as many shoppers were using its apps than the associated m-web site on Black Friday and that conversion rate on apps was 60% higher than on desktop. At one point on Black Friday a Poq client was entertaining 12,000 simultaneous apps users.

The increase in app use can be attributed to better experience and to the fact that shoppers were ‘ready to strike’ on Black Friday having prepared the app in advance so they could get the best bargains.

But you have to understand how apps are used in the context of the shopper journey. Too much effort is expended on app experience and app discovery, more needs to be done to look at how the app fits into the overall customer journey through online retail. The app is part of your overall retail strategy, not just your mobile strategy.

These trends for showrooming, marketing spend, mobile optimization and apps come on the back of a range of mobile stats over the run up to Christmas that show that mobile is making a big impact across retail, reshaping how consumers approach the shopping season.

As we have reported, figures from IMRG and CapGemini show that in Q3 45% of sales came via mobile – in a climate where online shopping growth was showing signs of slowing. More interestingly, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, coupled with Christmas shopping in general show that online retail sales in November recorded their highest ever month-on-month (MoM) growth since the Index launched 15 years ago – up 40%. The record-breaking spike in online sales was driven by the growth of m-retail, with purchases made via a smartphone accounting for 32% of all mobile commerce sales – a record high for these devices.

Sales made on a smartphone device grew by 97% year-on-year, while purchases made on a tablet reached a record low of just 12%, demonstrating a notable shift in mobile spending habits.

So in many ways it has been a mobile Christmas and is set to be a very mobile new year: but that isn’t going to look like you think it is. Mobile – be it optimizing your site, apps or even a resurgence in tablet (when all those iPad Pros and Windows Surface tabs given as Christmas gifts really kick in) – is going to be more a part of your overall strategy than ever before. Are you going to be ready to unlock it? Merry Christmas. See you in 2016.

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