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Why retailers need to be mobile for the 2010 holidays

This year has opened consumers’ minds to using mobile for doing research, gathering opinions and sharing them with peers via social media, as well as making purchases.

Because of these consumer trends, this year it is more important than ever to have a mobile presence, especially for the 2010 holiday season. Retailers are realizing this and have made mobile a priority for 2010.

“The data is clear, whether it’s the enormous amount of time spent on mobile or the dollars spent directly, consumers are there,” said Andrew Koven, president of ecommerce and customer experience at Steve Madden, New York. “For these reasons, retailers need to have some presence to accommodate at least one if not all of the consumer’s uses for mobile.”

The main point is that this year the sheer number of smartphone users has more than doubled, and Digby expects at least 65 million more to be enabled by year’s end.

The sheer number of smartphone users is increasing dramatically and that’s a big eye-opener for retailers.

It is not just about smartphones either. IPod touches and tablets are big now too.

For the first time there are more smartphones than desktop computers being sold, according to IDC. The desktop is dying and smartphones are the way of the future. More people are going to carry them around and that is a powerful opportunity for retailers.

“There is still time to set up a mobile site,” Mr. Koven said. “Decide what your business objectives are – store location, direct sales of products, presentation of special offers, how-to information for the holidays, and support the opportunity for consumers to engage with you in some way via mobile.

“Just get started,” he said.

The demographic of smartphone users is attractive to retailers, per Dan Lowden, vice president of marketing at Digby, Austin, TX. 

The average mobile subscriber is age 25-34 and nearly twice as likely to make more than $100,000, according to NielsenWire. The demographic is great for retailers in terms of the customer base they want to reach.

Consumers expect a great mobile experience. A good mobile experience reflects positively on a brand and a bad one reflects negatively on a brand. 

Mobile represents an additional or incremental revenue opportunity because people can buy anytime and anywhere. It also lets them buy immediately, playing on the impulse purchase.  

“The biggest call outs I’m seeing in advance of the holidays, which bode well for more missions critical selling which the holiday season presents, are threefold: more visitors, higher conversion rates and more minutes being spent on mobile month over month,” Mr. Koven said. “Store location and inventory visibility are features that should be considered as part of the mobile platform.

“Mobile should inherently support ease, speed and shopping efficiency for the consumer’s experience,” he said. 

Driving in-store purchase
1800Flowers said that mobile consumers search and evaluate products on their devices.

One consumer walked into a store with her mobile phone and said she wanted to buy what she had found on her mobile device. She picked the item she wanted using her mobile phone but came into the store to actually complete the transaction.

This example illustrates a great way to take advantage of mobile and drive people into stores.

Social media is becoming a big component of the mobile Web strategies of retailers. Consumers post stuff on their Facebook and have friends and relatives evaluate products.

If the response is positive, then consumers go and purchase the product or the service. Social via mobile is a great way to generate response and also useful for instant feedback.

The ratings and reviews around products help consumers make that decision, which is great during the holidays.

Best practices
“I think for mobile Web sites, the experience should be unique for mobile,” Mr. Lowden said. “It should not be the desk top Web site revamped for mobile. Think in terms of better fitting the mobile consumer.

“During the holidays that may mean highlighting special offers special promotions right up front,” he said. 

The other best practice Mr. Lowden gave is that it is not just about mobile Web it is also about downloadable applications.

If the application can be downloaded to a consumer’s device then that retailer is able to build a closer relationship with the consumer.

“We are seeing a lot of activity from retailers that want to enable for the holidays,” Mr. Lowden said. “It is a major priority this year for retailers.”

Final Take
Giselle Tsirulnik, senior editor of Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.