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Retailer emails drive smartphone traffic, but not conversions over the holidays

The results suggest that promotional emails reaching smartphone users are doing a good job of prompting research but still are not doing enough to make it easy for smartphone users to make a purchase.

“The tablet and smartphone traffic more than doubled in just a short period of a year from a combined eight percent to a combined slightly over 20 percent, which is nothing short of a meteoric rise in a relatively short period of time,” said Kurt Heinemann, chief marketing officer at Monetate, Conshohocken, PA.

“You can see in the smartphone results, the retailer prompted research by email was very successful in driving traffic,” he said. “The conversion was down but it was prompting the research.

“The question is, is the smartphone ever going to turn the corner to be a purchase environment and are they tying that retailer prompted research into a purchase event later.”

Tablet conversions increase
Web site traffic from mobile devices continues to grow, with one out of every five visits to a leading ecommerce Web site now coming from a either a tablet or a smartphone. On Cyber Monday, Web site visits from both devices more than doubled from 7.9 percent in the previous year to 18.87 percent.

On Christmas Day, almost one-third of all traffic came from smartphones – with 16.05 percent of traffic – and tablets – with 15.57 percent.

Conversion rates by device were up on several of the key shopping days of the 2012 holiday period compared with the same days in 2011.

The upward trend is most noticeable for tablets, with increased conversion rates on Thanksgiving Day, that Saturday and on Cyber Monday, when the average conversion rate was 6.31 percent compared with 5.78 percent in the previous year. That day saw the highest conversion rates for all devices.

Conversion rates for tablets were also higher on the Tuesday after Cyber Monday, coming in at 6.72 percent.

For smartphones, the conversion rates were up slightly on Saturday and Cyber Monday but down the rest of the holiday weekend. On Cyber Monday, the conversion rate in 2012 was 1.83 percent compared to 1.47 percent in the year before.

Free shipping day also saw a nice increase in conversion rates for tablets, with the average for that day reaching 5.01 percent as shoppers looked to take advantage of the last day when they could order and still receive free shipping.

However, conversion rates decreased significantly during the week leading up to Christmas Day, suggesting that users were not drawn in by last-minute deals or expedited shipping guarantees.

Quick interactions
The average order value on smartphones increased 15.56 percent in December compared to a year earlier, reaching $113.95. The average order value for tablets was $104.30, up only 3.79 percent.

Some of the key lessons from the findings are that consumers want quick interactions on smartphones and may simply be looking to identify things that are of interest so they can follow up on them later when they are using a desktop or tablet device.

“Fifty percent of the growth in traffic is attributable to smartphones,” Mr. Heinemann said. “Traffic is coming and they are doing the research.

“The next step in the evolution of retailers is trying to figure out identity reconciliation and trying to understand, because the conversion is so much lower on smartphones, are we getting those people to come back via one of their other devices to finally make the purchase after they have been activated to a sale or a product or a promotion do they end turning over to a device that is more friendly to purchasing to make that final call,” he said.

Curating content
When emails are sent on weekends or holidays, they often have very high open rates but poor Web site metrics attributable to these campaigns. The reason for the spike is because consumers are receiving and opening their emails on their smartphones instead of a desktop or laptop computer on weekends and holidays.

This is why it is especially important the holiday emails be optimized for mobile. This means directing users to a Web page that is accessible on an Android or iPhone and making sure there is an easy-to-use conversion path.

Retailers face several challenges in optimizing mobile email for conversion, such as their large inventories.

“The secret is going to be knowing your customer so that when someone gets on a smartphone, you can curate the content intelligently because you recognize the user and you are making the shopping experience for them,” Mr. Heinemann said.

“If retailers can do that in the future, we are going to see the conversion rates for phones increase,” he said.

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