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Mobile breeds new shopping opportunity in days before Christmas

The growing use of smartphones for shopping-related activities has created a new window of opportunity for retailers to reach extreme last-minute shoppers on the days leading up to Christmas, according to a new report today from xAd.

The trend emerged last year, when retail-related search activity on mobile devices was 24 percent greater on Christmas Eve than on Black Friday. A last-minute spike on mobile could be even higher this year based on how mobile is trending so far this year, and savvy retailers such as Old Navy are pulling out all the stops in the second half of December to meet these shopppers’ needs.

“While we have all witnessed and even suffered from holiday gifting procrastination long before mobile came to be, our smartphones are making it much easier to wait until the last minute to find the perfect gift,” said Monica Ho, vice president of marketing at xAd, New York. “Before even heading out the door, mobile users can search for nearby retailers, their holiday hours of operation, give them a call to check on stock and navigate directly to their door.

“A lot of focus has been on mcommerce and purchase power in device, but we are still seeing significant bricks-and-mortar activity enabled by mobile, and the Mobile Eve phenomenon is a testament to that,” she said.

Last-minute shoppers
Old Navy is a good example of a retailer who is catering its mobile strategy in the second half of December to meet the needs of last-minute shoppers.

When smartphone users visit the retailer’s Web site from their phone, the main image scrolls through several key pieces of information for last minute-shoppers, including a panel that lays out the shipping schedule. It reveals that orders of at least $50 placed by 11:59 pm ET on Dec. 19 will ship for free and arrive on Dec. 24.

Another panel highlights the retailer’s selection of last-minute gifts.

There is also a prominently displayed button for finding a nearby store.

Nearby stores
XAd’s research shows that last year, last-minute mobile shopping activity started to ramp up three days before Christmas, spiking on par with Black Friday.

Mobile activity continued to grow from there, reaching new heights on Christmas Eve before dropping back down.

While shopping-related search activity from desktop also increases on Black Friday, xAd’s research shows there is not a similar jump in the days right before Christmas as there is on mobile.

The research suggests users are searching for the nearest bricks-and-mortar retailers where they can purchase gifts as having an item shipped is not available from most online retailers at this point.

Location targeting
As mobile users become increasingly comfortable shopping via their devices and start to expect the ease and convenience it offers, more consumers are shopping at the last minute.

Mobile shopping is appealing to those who have waited until the last minute to purchase a gift and need to find something as well as those who have already completed most of their shopping but are looking for one last gift for someone special.

Retailers are also increasingly catering to last minute shoppers on mobile

For example, the eBay Now mobile app enables users in San Francisco, San Jose, New York City and Chicago order products from stores such as Urban Outfitters, Toys “R” Us, Macy’s, Target and more, with purchases delivered the same day for a charge of $5.

To meet the needs of mobile last-minute shoppers, xAd recommends retailers make sure their targeting is focused around the vicinity of each store location.

Earlier research shows that 50 percent of mobile consumers are looking for a storefront within five miles of their current location. This will help drive in-store traffic on Christmas Eve, but retailers need to take into consideration each location’s store hours.

Any coupons or offers should also be locally relevant, for example, to promote last-minute clearance messaging and door busters.

Also be sure to track and analyze last-minute campaigns from click to foot traffic, which is now possible.

Holiday shopping
Mobile-driven last-minute shopping is not exclusive to Christmas.

XAd’s research shows a similar increase in shopping-related mobile activity in the days immediately before other holidays as well, such as Mother’s Day and Halloween.

“The key is to align mobile strategies towards aiding the last-minute shoppers,” Ms. Ho said. “These consumers are in full lean-forward mode.

“Retailers should focus on providing consumers with quick and easy information, allowing them to make decisions in a pinch,” she said. “Both ad targeting and creative should be locally relevant, while displaying deals and discounts that are more likely to attract consumer attention.”

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