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Retailers take one-stroke holiday marketing approach across mobile Web, apps

Mobile Commerce Daily looked at the apps and mobile sites from Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon and Sears. Although there are a few exceptions, retailers seem to be using their mobile offerings in conjunction this year to push out holiday deals.

“This year represents a tipping point in terms of promotion on mobile sites and apps in terms of that sheer numbers of users utilizing such apps,” said Scott Engler, cofounder/chief revenue officer at Longboard Media, San Francisco.

“In past years it was very rare to have the proper scale to run a meaningful promotion,” he said. “This year, adoption of some of the more popular shopping apps enables advertisers to target a meaningful percentage of overall shoppers.”

Walmart is using its app for both online and in-store promotions.

The homepage of Walmart’s iPhone app promotes the brand’s local holiday ads and pre-Black Friday selected deals.

Additionally, the app uses a consumer’s location to track down in-store maps for Black Friday shopping.

Walmart is also using its in-store function within its app to promote holiday deals. Users who flip the app into store mode can browse through a commerce-enabled version of a catalog.

Walmart’s mobile site features a similar homepage.

However, the site is also promoting free shipping on eligible orders of $45 or more. Compared to Walmart’s iPhone app, the brand’s mobile site is geared more towards online sales, making an offer for free shipping particularly relevant.

“Mobile will play an increasingly important part in merchandising this year, especially with location-aware apps,” said Eric Feinberg, senior director of mobile, media and entertainment at ForeSee, Ann Arbor, MI.

“The best of these apps will steer customers toward sale items they may not have otherwise seen,” he said. “Think of them as virtual end-caps that draw customers’ attention to promotional products.”

Target’s mobile app and optimized site is pushing holiday deals that are good through Nov. 24.

A landing page via the app connects users to Target’s mobile site that features three holiday sales that consumers can shop from – Black Friday, Thanksgiving and Beat the Rush, which is a sale that takes place before Black Friday. Users can also shop directly from Target’s commerce-enabled mobile app.

Additionally, both app and mobile Web users are encouraged to sign up for Target’s mobile coupon and email programs via the app to stay in the loop with current offers and deals throughout the holiday season.

“Mobile shopping on Thanksgiving is expected to increase dramatically this year, with 28 percent of mobile device-owning adults planning to shop on mobile that day,” said Krishna Subramanian, chief marketing officer at Velti, San Francisco.

“It’s convenient to use a mobile phone or tablet on Thanksgiving, as many will be at a relative’s home for a big turkey dinner as brands and stores open up their special sales,” he said. “On Cyber Monday, people tend to be back at work or at home, with access to a computer in addition to mobile. So while the mobile volume on Monday will increase this year over last, it may not be as dramatic of an increase as Mobile Thursday will see.”

Best Buy
Best Buy is using slightly different holiday merchandising strategies on its app and mobile site.

Although the company is not using its app homepage to specifically push out holiday offers and deals, the simple layout of the app with three stacked features — browsing products, finding deals and checking a gift card balance — will most likely help consumers shopping in-store or online.

In the deals section, offers are indicated with graphics over pictures of items that show users that items are on sale. However, there is not a call-to-action about holiday shipping.

Free shipping is promoted at the top of Best Buy’s mobile site. Users can click through to see which offers are eligible and are encouraged to stock up on holiday gifts by using free shipping.

Amazon is loading its app and mobile site homepage with holiday offers prior to Black Friday. The homepage reads, “Black Fridays Deals Week.”

When users click through, they can view time-sensitive deals that Amazon has allocated to a specific number of deals. If an offer is still available, users with an Amazon account can add items to their shopping carts and have 15 minutes to check-out in order to receive the discounted price.

In the app, a box on the right side of the screen promotes specific products. For instance, the box encourages consumers to click to shop Motorola’s Droid Razr Maxx HD 4G smartphone or a shaver from Braun. The ad placement is a creative way for both brands to drive sales via a promoted spot on Amazon’s coveted homepage.

Amazon is also using the box on its app to push sales of its own gift cards.

Calls-to-action on both Sears’ iPhone app and mobile site encourage consumers to shop doorbuster deals early.

Additionally, a page includes a running clock that prompts users to come back to the app on Nov. 21 when the deals are revealed.

By using a running clock, Sears is able to give users an incentive for opening the app before Thanksgiving and in turn is educating consumers to use their mobile devices as shopping guides.

“Last year, our customers saw a marked increase in the amount of traffic to their websites from mobile devices from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday,” said Aaron Rudger, senior marketing manager of Web performance at Keynote Systems, San Mateo, CA.

“Tablet users will start shopping online immediately after their Thanksgiving Day meal, but Cyber Monday will still remain the single largest sales day for online retailers,” he said.

“We are seeing retailers invest in their mobile presence with updated sites and apps. However, we still find that the performance of these mobile experiences is lacking. So while consumers will have many more opportunities to engage with retailers on their smartphones and tablets, we anticipate that slow and unresponsive pages will turn many shoppers away.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York