How to Harness Mobile to Create Happy Holiday Customers

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Here are a few mobile strategies to stand out during the frenzied holiday shopping season.

A few weeks ago in a store in San Francisco, I ran into a woman and her three brothers debating gift ideas for their dad's birthday. Thing is, the three brothers were in Chicago, Houston, and Honolulu. The sister simply walked around with her phone as her three brothers responded to every item she held up as a possible gift. As they eyed one gift, the woman scanned the bar code and instantly found it had great ratings from other consumers and that online stores weren't selling it any cheaper than the store was. Once the siblings decided to buy it, they all paid through Splitwise, an app that allows users to split and pay bills virtually. (After all this, they ended up with a flask tie for dad - yes, a tie that has a hidden flask in it.)

Shopping has entered a new era, and with the holiday season upon us, we're seeing consumer shopping evolve in ways we never imagined. Increasingly, consumers are diversifying the ways they shop during the holidays. And with 16 percent of e-commerce sales now happening on mobile, companies need to optimize their mobile sales efforts. Here are a few tips to stand out during the frenzied holiday shopping season.

Accommodate "Web-rooming"

Eighty-eight percent of shoppers now prefer to browse products online or on mobile but buy in-store. This trend, known as "web-rooming," is becoming increasingly commonplace as people take advantage of browsing products from the privacy of their own homes, and then armed with their research, buying products in-store. It may seem odd to not just the pull the trigger from the comfort of home, but marketers shouldn't underestimate the "spirit of the season." In general, people still want in-store experiences for the sentiment and experience of holiday shopping.

How can marketers make that transition from home to store as smooth as possible? Consumers know which products they want to feel, try on, or see in person. Web-rooming should be accommodated by nuts-and-bolts tactics, such as showing customers whether the merchandise they're interested in is available in-store; ensuring all prices and promotions in-store match those online; and making it easy for customers to add items to wish lists that they can access in-store.

"Push" Messages People Want to See

Push notifications are one of the best ways to catch the attention of target audiences this holiday season, but there is a fine balance to walk between engagement and annoyance. Marketers can now send highly targeted push notifications, so there's no need to blast everyone with the same message. Notifications can be customized to go to certain people, depending on individual interests, purchase history, and website visit behavior.

Remember Tablets

People who browse products on tablets are nearly three times as likely to purchase as those browsing on smartphones. According to eMarketer, only 39 percent of smartphone users have purchased a product or service on a smartphone, compared to 63 percent of tablet users. With the increasing number of tablets in the market, volume of tablet users, likelihood to purchase, and superior shopping experience (larger screen), tablets are winners. Don't worry about losing all the "on the go" smartphone users while on the bus, in line at a caf?etc. - IBM research shows only 15 percent of mobile users purchase when they're "on the go." The actual purchasing is typically done at home.

Be Quick and Mobile

When engaging customers through a mobile website, responsive design ensures the site will appear optimally on any device. In fact, one of the leading causes of customers not returning to a mobile website or app is a bad first experience due to poor navigation or usability. Web Performance Today found if page loads take three seconds or longer, 57 percent of viewers are likely to drop off.

Get Visual

Sites like Pinterest, Wanelo, and Tumblr are great ways to get product visibility. All have extremely high mobile use rates, as users can quickly browse and share images. It's free, it's viral, and it has a peer-to-peer undercurrent that people value the likeable images posted by others (i.e., they are not paid advertisements).

Drive the Holidays All Year

Like friends and family members who keep track of what to buy their loved ones throughout the year, marketers who capture this period of prime transactional volume will pay attention to their customers throughout the year. Not only does this year-round engagement strategy offer a head start on competitors, but it also better equips marketers to understand which products and discounts will be best appreciated that holiday season. The most successful marketers will have already built and cultivated connections on social media and smartphones earlier in the year. That way, holiday strategies aren't built on a set of tactics, but rather, a network of relationships.