ARCHIVES: This is legacy content from before Industry Dive acquired Mobile Commerce Daily in early 2017. Some information, such as publication dates, may not have migrated over. Check out our topic page for the latest mobile commerce news.

Black Friday trends and predictions: a watershed year for mobile?

As Black Friday approaches, consumers’ mobile use is surging and retailers are finally taking notice of it, making this year’s event a crucible for whether bricks-and-mortar and mobile presences can work in harmony.

Many experts in mobile retailing are anxiously awaiting hard sales numbers from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but the metrics that are already apparent from the marketing side indicate that consumers and retailers alike may well look to this year as a model for future iterations of the shopping holiday. Some experts already have entrenched methods of measurement in place.

“The key measurement of mobile and black Friday is to compare online mobile sales versus Cyber Monday—last year online sales outpaced cyber Monday by over 50 percent, and that trend will continue this year,” said Marci Troutman, CEO of SiteMinis. “Nobody wants to miss out on the great deals that become available for Black Friday.

“Also, most people get paid on Friday and want to get in quick on good deals,” she said. “Brands can look at consumer mobile engagement on Black Friday and reengage and adjust to maximize cyber Monday offers.

“Brands get the extra few days to make conversion more successful; this is the real value of mobile, to take advantage of the entire shopping weekend, and mobile lends itself most effectively for these marketing efforts.”

Market assessment
A variety of findings thought this year make the increase in mobile engagements year over year unsurprising, including studies that show users are spending more time on social media, are breaking consumer inertia against spending high sums on the mobile platform, and are overall spending more time and consuming more on their mobile phones.

And the market does look to be responding in kind, at least in the abstract: brands have been dedicating more time and budget to their mobile components this year. But with this in mind, one would think shrewd retailers and brands would be arming themselves with strong, cohesive mobile offerings for what is shaping up to be a litmus test for retail in the holiday season, but one expert finds otherwise.

“I actually don’t think enough retailers are optimizing the mobile experience,” said Keren Kang, CEO of Native Commerce. “Perhaps it was an off day for a few of the mobile websites I visited for pre-Black Friday deals, which had extremely slow load times due to large, non-optimized images and file size.

“Shoppers on mobile have surpassed those on desktop as of the last year and still there are the top retailers trailing behind on optimization, which is a little surprising.”

Despite qualms with some individual brands, Ms. Kang sees the industry as a whole moving in one direction.

“I’m seeing more pre-Black Friday deals happening both online, in apps, and in retail,” she said. “‘Beat the crowd’ deals are becoming commonplace.

“Black Friday is being stretched out to a week’s worth of deals for the consumer.”

Holiday season
The congealed approach of some brands is difficult to account for, especially considering much of the hard data that supports a full commitment to mobile migration. One explanation could be that because mobile retail and marketing (and online retail/marketing at large) is impinging on more traditional channels at such an exponential rate, that brands—especially large brands with deeply calcified business practices—are having a difficult time keeping up.

These brands would do well to follow the leads of smaller presences in the market that have the time and intimacy with their customer base to construct an organic social media campaign that mirrors the traditional advertising experience without bastardizing it.

“Email promotions with tracked, special deals are very popular this holiday season, and since most of these emails are opened on mobile devices, the need to land this traffic on a mobile-optimized page is stronger than ever,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce. “Retailers with custom landing pages and mobile-specific user experiences will reap the biggest rewards this Black Friday via higher than average conversion rates.”

“Mobile is growing ever-larger, as a percentage of ecommerce sales and this Black Friday should smash previous records for both mobile traffic and converted sales,” he said. “Our index of over 300 retailers is already trending this way and we will publish results after the Holiday shopping period.

“While overall retail will grow by just 3 percent this year, mobile commerce is tracking to grow by a staggering 43 percent in 2016, fueled by streamlined checkout solutions, increasing consumer willingness to transact via mobile and better marketing by my retailers, who now see mobile as the platform to focus on for growth. This holiday season, apps will play a bigger role than ever before, as smart retailers look to engage in a one-on-one basis with their customers and offer personalized shopping that takes advantage of native smart phone functionality.”