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Have mobile-driven sales events gotten out of hand?

A well-publicized online sales event such as yesterday’s Prime Day from Amazon is theoretically a great way to reach impulse buyers on mobile, but as the number of these events continues to proliferate, shoppers could begin to lose interest.

While Prime Day and similar one-day online sales events from other retailers are not specific to mobile, merchants’ interest in them is being driven by how mobile users shop in short blocks of time throughout their day as they hunt for the best deals. Rather than diving in with similar strategies, bricks-and-mortar retailers should focus on mobile-driven omnichannel strategies such as order online, pick up in-store as well as pushing local inventory similar to items that may have quickly sold out in these sales events.

“Mobile plays a big role during the buying journey of today’s consumer,” said John Pincott, senior vice president of Europe and global marketing at Shopatron. “The majority of consumers start their research online, and continue connecting with a retailer’s online space throughout their decision-making process.

“Even when a consumer is in a physical store, they are often on their phones,” he said.

“To compete with events such as Prime Day, retailers must offer convenient purchase options such as ship-from-store and in-store pickup, as well as giving shoppers on their phones visibility and access to the inventory of local stores.”

Competing sales
Prime Day was a one-day sales event from Amazon to celebrate its anniversary. Target, Walmart and other retailers followed suit with their own sales events.

These retailers hope to turn any new customers attracted by such events into long-term customers, but evidence from the flash sales sites suggests otherwise.

Such well-publicized events also run the risk of turning away shoppers if coveted items sell out quickly.



Walmart put its prices up against Amazon’s on July 15

“We are seeing a unique opportunity for other retailers as Prime Day unfolds,” Mr. Pincott said. “We have seen reports of Amazon Prime Day shoppers being waitlisted and deals running out early in the day.

“Retailers now have the opportunity to offer those disappointed online (and often mobile) shoppers the local inventory in their store locations, delivering these items in the most convenient way of the consumer’s choosing,” he said.

Customer turnover
Mobile’s role as a shopping tool is still growing and evolving, which means that consumer behavior as it relates to mobile shopping is not firmed up yet. For example, not long ago, flash sales sites were growing furiously and were one of the first group of retailers to see more than 50 percent of traffic and sales come from mobile.

However, more recently these businesses have been struggling.

Rue La La has been looking for a buyer since last year and Zulilly said earlier this year that it is seeing higher customer turnover rates among new clients.

It is expensive for merchants to acquire new customers and if mobile shoppers brought in by big sales events are proving to be fickle and not turning into long-term customers, it may not make sense for retailers to commit to online sales events.

Omnichannel experiences
Merchants are always looking for ways to drive excitement around shopping, but too many sales can have a negative impact by undermining the perceived value of a merchant’s offerings.

One problem with these types of events is a lack personalization. While some consumers may enjoy spending chunks of time browsing through sale items from a mobile device in the hopes of finding something they are interested in, others could begin to view their time as too valuable.

There are better ways for retailers to leverage shoppers’ interest in using mobile that with big sales events.

One important way to leverage mobile is to enable shoppers to reserve or purchase an item online. This way customers can come into a store to pick up their purchase – and hopefully make an additional purchase while they are there – or to try on an item if it is reserved. With the lion’s share of shopping still taking place inside stores, this can be a great way to deliver convenience and build loyalty.

“Retailers participating in this initiative must keep in mind that consumers today have come to expect a consistent experience across all channels and devices,” said Paige O’Neill, chief marketing officer at SDL.

“To execute a successful campaign, brand strategies should be aligned across all channels – as an inconsistent experience will frustrate shoppers and drive them away,” she said. “Retailers should also think about how they target mobile communications.

“SDL research has found that shoppers under the age of 40 are most likely to research on smartphones before making purchases, with the 18-24 year-old age range having the greatest tendency to shop via mobile. As part of their mobile approach, retailers should be sure to keep generational preferences in mind too.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York