How to Reach Mobile Shoppers This Holiday Season

The holiday shopping season is officially upon us, and mobile will play a bigger role than ever when it comes to our buying habits. IDC last week said 28 percent of U.S. holiday spending will be driven by mobile in some way, accounting for a whopping $127 billion in sales. And shopping by phone is sure to ramp up in the coming months and years as smartphones become more popular and mobile data consumption spikes. So retailers — everybody from big-box chains to mom-and-pop corner stores — looking to target wireless users must tackle these key challenges:

Build a great mobile site. This sounds like a no-brainer, but I’m constantly amazed at how retailers and publishers continue to screw up when it comes to building a site for mobile. Instead of simply presenting a shrunken version of a traditional online destination, companies need to consider what consumers want from a mobile site. Eliminate content like lengthy user reviews, which are invaluable online but unreadable on a phone, and offer a homepage with a few simple choices that enable users to find a nearby location or browse merchandise with just a few clicks. Costco has done a pretty good job of this with its new mobile site, which isn’t the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen but gives mobile users the information they’re looking for in a simple, straightforward way.

Build your own apps. Mobile sites are a lowest-common-denominator solution that can be accessed by a wide range of mobile devices, but smartphones can support a more sophisticated, immersive user experience through a downloadable application. For tips on how to present valuable information via an app — and how to make it look good, too — check out this great offering from AutoZone. (Yes, AutoZone.) Build apps for the iPhone and Android at the very least, and consider other platforms if they’re appropriate. A retailer targeting business users should consider developing an app for BlackBerry OS, for instance. And think about building dedicated apps for the iPad and other tablets that are quickly finding an audience.

Use third-party apps. Target — which last week was named mobile retailer of the year by Mobile Commerce Daily —recently teamed with Shopkick to deliver location-based rewards to mobile users who walk into its stores. As part of a pilot program that launched earlier this month, shoppers at more than 200 Target outlets can receive points and other rewards, as well as scannable coupons that can be redeemed at the checkout stand. Other notable Shopkick partners include Macy’s, Best Buy and American Eagle. Those kinds of programs not only encourage new consumers to visit the brick-and-mortar stores, they also cultivate loyalty among existing customers.

Embrace social media. Chipotle last week partnered with Facebook Places to offer free burritos to users who checked in with the massive social community at the restaurant. Users simply showed cashiers the offer on their phones to receive a buy-one-get-one deal. (The campaign even drew the attention of Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley, who told his Twitter followers to petition the restaurant to run an offer via Foursquare.)

Don’t forget SMS. Text isn’t the sexiest medium — unless maybe you’re Tony Parker — but it’s still an extremely effective and cost-productive way to communicate with a huge number of consumers. Nearly three-fourths of U.S. adults send and receive text messages, according to recent data from Pew Research Center, and SinglePoint claims that recipients eventually read more than 99 percent of their text messages. Sending unwanted messages is a mistake, but creating a dialogue with users who’ve opted to receive texts is a great way to build relationships.

Integrate your marketing campaigns. Use in-store displays, traditional media and social networks to push your mobile initiatives, and use mobile to drive traffic to your online and brick-and-mortar destinations. Advertise on the mobile web to entice users to visit your mobile web site and to download your application. And encourage users to sign up to receive text messages through print ads, TV commercials and even billboards.

Question of the week

What else must retailers do to reach users on their phones?
Relevant Analyst
Colin Gibbs

Colin Gibbs

Mobile Curator Gigaom Network

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