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Holiday Shopping Trends Highlight The Increasing Importance Of A Mobile Strategy

When referring to all the shopping that went on between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day 2011, the term “holiday” has been replaced by a different modifier — mobile.

Millions turned to their handheld devices to buy everything from lawn ornaments to winter tires and hunting decoys, all purchased with the tap of a finger.

To gauge the level of mobile shopping, Ability Commerce, an e-Commerce software developer, took a close look at its clients’ mobile shopping figures during the holiday period. We found that mobile buying trended up steadily, likely because of our clients’ clearly identified mobile strategies.

More interesting, we uncovered a fevered skirmish going on among the top mobile operating systems. With all the Android tablets and smartphones hitting the market, plus a raft of new tablets and several Apple iOS devices, the mobile market was flooded this year. We discovered a host of interesting statistics about how each operating system fared in mobile shopping in 2011. Android transactions (including Android smartphones and tablets) surged 52% from 2010, while Apple iOS device transactions (iPhones and iPads combined) were up 338%.

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Not only were the operating systems battling for number of transactions, some devices proved much more adept at getting more customers to the page ― and getting them to buy. Revenue from Android transactions alone spiked 173% in 2011 compared to the year before and mobile visits in general to e-Commerce sites (i.e., those who were “just browsing”) ballooned 205%. These staggering figures show why all rungs of the e-Commerce ladder, from national chain retailers to local, niche shops, are broadening their mobile-friendly horizons.

While a retailer can’t dictate which devices shoppers are using to shop mobile, there are a variety of strategies that work for all mobile platforms to create an easy-to-use and lucrative mobile shopping experience. What matters most is aligning your strategy with your brand and making it accessible to the greatest number of potential customers. For a strong technical foundation, take advantage of HTML5, which provides non-Flash video and mobile style sheets. By tailoring your web markup and style sheets to the screen size and resolution of mobile devices, you can enhance the visual aesthetics of your site and lure more mobile shoppers.

If 2011 was any indicator, 2012 is bound to bring a continuation of this upward shift in mobile commerce. Here are a few tips to help your enterprise yield the most results from your mobile strategy.

1. Don’t Underestimate The Tablet. In 2011, the iPad was the frontrunner of the mobile pack, garnering a 280% increase in revenue compared with 2010, according to Ability Commerce data. Customers navigating their shopping experiences on iPads continued to show a greater intent to buy than those using smartphones. This, in addition to the notion that much of Android’s 2011 numbers could be attributed to the bevy of Android tablets released that same year, is proof enough that these handhelds are dominating the mobile shopping landscape. Make catering to tablets an essential part of your plan; omit any Flash technology and morph your standard web site into something more interactive.

2. Less Clutter, Less Confusion. Consider the mobile version of your eTail store an opportunity for remodeling. When dealing with smaller screens, you want the main points most visible. Include a way for shoppers to view their virtual cart from every page. Increase the size of your input fields for ordering ease; better yet, turn input fields into drop-down menus wherever possible to cut the frustration associated with temperamental touch keys.

3. Be Mindful Of Upgrades And New Products. The mobile realm in its entirety still is relatively new to consumers and eTailers. Every day it is buzzing with rumors of a new product or announcements regarding a new operating system. Just because you don’t specialize in IT doesn’t exempt you from having to stay in-the-know. With the debut of the Windows 8 operating system set for later this year, it is critical for both retailers who have already gone mobile, and those still planning to, to take note of how the latest advancements will affect their strategies, then learn how to use them to their benefit.

4. Go Beyond A Web Site. Adapting your web site for mobile devices is a smart move, but it’s only a start. Apps, QR codes, email marketing and the many potential mobile accessories to pair with your site are endless. Whether it’s an electronic newsletter for which customers can opt-in, a sizing-guide app that lets customers match their measurements with ease, or QR codes that can be scanned for coupons, be sure to have another channel in place through which you can engage your audience.

Diane Buzzeo is the founder and CEO of Ability Commerce. In the 1970s, Buzzeo built her own retail start-up, American Musical Supply, into an e-Commerce behemoth. Today, American Musical Supply is an Internet Retailer Top 500 Site. In 1985, Buzzeo sold American Musical Supply and founded another company that is still operating today: Marketing Concepts. Buzzeo saw the need to create a company dedicated to creating software solutions for e-Commerce retailers and founded Ability Commerce in 1999. Ability Commerce survived the Internet bubble burst and is now a leading provider of mobile e-Commerce software.

 

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