Mobile Apps are Springboard for the Holiday Shopping Season

With the holiday shopping season just around the corner, retailers are facing a slew of quandaries. What is this year going to look like? Will the buyers mostly shop online or in-store? What steps should you take to increase sales?

Here’s a news flash – traditional holiday shopping as we know it no longer exists, not even in comparison to last year. A customer who shopped one way in the past may well stir the pot by hopping from one unexpected channel to another, only to return to the original option for the next transaction.

Despite the proliferation of shopping channels, a recent study published by Oracle and Edison Research indicates that last year Christmas sales via smartphones and tablets were up 55%, and 37% of all online sales (or 8.9% of all total retail sales) were made directly via a mobile device.

The Centrality of Mobile Apps

Some mobile owners use their smartphones to browse and compare prices through mobile apps, while others actually complete their purchases through the app. But even more interestingly, a recent Apptentive survey reveals that “app-rooming” is becoming increasingly popular. This term refers to the act of using a mobile app to browse items, followed by a physical visit to the store to purchase them. Out of the survey respondents who said they use retail mobile apps, 71% stated that they had “app-roomed” at least once in the previous month.

Mobile apps are used by consumers while shopping in-store too. Of the respondents who use retail mobile apps, 51% use an app while shopping in-store. Shoppers using mobile apps noted that they most value the ability to redeem in-store discounts (29%), conduct price comparisons (25%), view product ratings (20%) and search for new products (18%).

The survey revealed another interesting fact; 74% of people who use retail mobile apps said that they plan to use them to do at least some of their holiday shopping this year.

So, whether the mobile app is the first or last stop in the shopping experience, there is no doubt that it constitutes a vital component of the shopping formula. To stay in the running, retailers must do their best to create and optimize their mobile app.  To quote Tom Webster, Vice President of Strategy for Edison Research: “Every moment is a mobile moment.”

Mobile Apps Dos and Don’ts

The quality of your mobile app can make or break your upcoming holiday season sales. Be sure to provide attractive product photos and videos, ratings and reviews to present the right amount of information to consumers. But having an attractive and even informative app is not enough.

Lessons should be learned from errors made by large retailers last year. Enterprises such as Best Buy, Neiman Marcus, GameStop, and J. Crew experienced outages and slowdowns as mobile app traffic peaked during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Having a mobile app that performs slowly or not at all is counter-productive, as shoppers won’t sit around and wait. They are far more likely to simply move on to another brand’s site, leaving yours in the dust. Take the time to conduct load and scale testing to ensure the app is capable of handling the tidal wave of traffic during high-peak shopping times and in the course of large push notifications.

In order to reap the benefits of your mobile offering, the app must be optimized to ensure quick downloads and easily clickable links. Microsoft discovered that the average human attention span has reduced from 12 seconds in 2012 to only 8 seconds in 2015. So the purchasing process should be quick and painless, otherwise you’ll lose your prospective customer.

While these technical aspects are crucial, it is no less important to create an inviting holiday-oriented app featuring special deals, gift coupons and other holiday-related information. By using mobile location services like geo-location, retailers can personalize the mobile app’s message by offering customers specific, timely deals.

Ho, Ho, Ho, Mobile on the Go

Whether the mobile app is the initial shopping stop or the ultimate one, it is clear that shoppers will inevitably turn to their smartphones this season because they are available for use anytime, anywhere, and they are always on hand. It’s safe to say that this holiday season the smartphone will be the ideal shopping device and the mobile app – the ideal shopping platform.

Oren Levy is the CEO of Zooz.

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